celery root salad… quiet delight

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this weekend i am headed to the mountains and will be making dinner and breakfast. i have been looking forward to it especially because i will be cooking 2 meals. i plan on making pork tenderloin with pomegranate and apricot accompanied by celery root salad for tomorrow’s dinner. i haven’t had this salad for at least 5 years and it has always been one of my favorites. i decided to put the recipe here for any of you. for my money, this is regional cuisine at its best. happy halloween.

Some things are so classic, so perfectly right as they are that it seems like a total disgrace to “reinvent” them. There is a reason some dishes have been around for a long time, on and off restaurant menu’s, but always there. There is a tricky knife edge here though. You can fall one way in to classic stardom of a recipe – something so good, so simple that it should never be changed. A quick shake on the edge however and things can fall drastically apart. The dish can be flat, boring, dated.
Celery root (or celariac as it is often called) remoulade when done with care falls head first into the first category of classic stardom. But like all things simple, the devil is hiding in the details. If you coarsely chop a celery root, mix it with store bought mayo, season with table salt you are going to think I am a grade A idiot for even suggesting this dish was a classic never to be changed. If, however, care is taken to create perfect little matchsticks of clean tasting celery root, and mixed with just the right amount of characterful homemade Dijon mayonnaise, spruced up with fresh lemon and herbs the you are on to a winner.
I first got thinking about celariac remoulade towards the end of last year when we had a family vacation to southern California. We rode bikes along the strand, all the way to god knows where (well at a guess close to LAX, given the fact I nearly fell off my bike being buzzed by a 747). We stopped and were hungry. There was a dicey looking “Italian” joint, a dive bar (we had our son with us..) or this crusty old French place that looked like you could blow the thing down.
Everyone knows how much the English love the crusty French, so we obviously headed straight there. Locking the bikes up next to the outside toilet one thought was going through my mind – “this place is either going to be fucking good, or I am going to be hoping to god that I can cycle back to out apartment in time before the lunch really hits home..” No fast cycling was required that afternoon I am happy to say, quite the contrary in fact.
The place was genius. I don’t think the decor or menu had changed since the 30s. Nor had the server (most likely the owner too), who must have been well in to her 80s, walked with a huge stoop, and berating the other younger waiter for not doing things right. The whole place just oozed old French. Sitting down I still had the same thought I did when we locked the bikes up. We ordered. Danika had some salmon, I had a roast lamb open sandwich, and a salad.
This was seriously one of the most perfectly prepared meals I have ever eaten. The salmon was ridiculously perfect. The lamb sandwich was fantastically balanced – rich, a little sweet, then a pop of cornichons. Nice. The highlight however was the side salads. A perfectly simple green salad, with just the right amount of fines herbs, dressing and salt. It was so fresh, clean and perfect. Just like the little heap of Céleri Rémoulade that sat unassumingly next to the roast lamb. You know they had been making these for decades, could do them in their sleep and them down right perfect.
A couple of hours over lunch (80 year old hunched over servers aren’t fast), a glass of wine, and a tired 4 year old meant that we rather reluctantly had to leave the place and cycle back past the noisy airplanes, and in to the rush of city (well, OK.. vacation) life again.
So back to the celery root. Whilst you might think it is the root of the celery stalks we all hate to eat raw(seriously, who enjoys chewing on a stringy celery stick?) it is different. It is a kind of celery, but harvested for the root, not stalk. Often I end up either roasting them in a bit of duck fat, or making a puree from them, with a little potato for body. Celeriac soup is lovely too, especially with a tiny dice of fresh tart apple and pancetta.
The French would absolutely argue that the classic of chopped celery root and mayonnaise cannot be improved upon, and I pretty much agree (as per my first statement in this blog post – keep it simple, don’t muck it up). I do however like to add just enough chopped fresh parsley and tarragon to make it even fresher. This time I finished the plateful with a sprinkling of Piment d’Espelette really just because I had bought a new jar and wanted an excuse to try it out.
Turns out it is great on this remoulade.
So there you have it really. A very simple clean French winter raw vegetable salad.
Raw celery root salad recipe
NOTE: this salad uses a lovely pungent homemade mayo based on a recipe from Anne Willian’s lovely “Country Cooking of France” book. It uses raw eggs. People get squiffy about raw eggs, mainly thanks to poor quality eggs from chickens on an incredibly cruel battery farm. Use good quality farm fresh eggs. The taste difference is incredible, and they are safer too.
Be sure to use a good quality Dijon mustard, and clean olive oil. Personally I like the Dijon from Trader Joes very much.
2 medium celery roots
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
3/4 cup olive oil (scant)
small bunch of fresh flat leaf parsley, hard stems removed
a few stalks of fresh taragon, leaves picked
Piment d’Espelette to taste (optionalish)
salt and pepper
Start by making the mustard mayo. Make sure all ingredients are at room temperature. Whisk together the egg yolks, mustard and 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice. Whisk until this thickens a bit. Slowly start adding in the lemon juice, pretty much a drop at a time, whisking constantly. After you have added about a tablespoon of oil this way, it can be added a little faster – in a slow stream – but whisk that arm of yours off. If at any point it looks like you have oil to whisk in, then slow down adding the oil, and whisk like mad. Now whisk in the remaining lemon juice. Season well with salt and pepper.
Trim the skin off the celery root. A wash to remove any excess dirt. Slice the celery root into 3mm slices. This is best done on a mandolin or deli slicer. Stack some of these slices up and now slice them in to thin matchsticks.
Cover the unused pieces of celery root with a damp towel, to stop them from going brown.
Once sliced put in a large bowl. Add the mayo a tablespoon or so at a time, mixing the celery root in well. Add just enough to liberally coat the celery root.  Finely chop the fresh herbs and toss enough in to make things interesting. Season well with good sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
Let this stand, covered in the fridge for a couple of hours to let the celery root soften a bit. When it comes time to serve, dish it up, and sprinkle each plate with a little Espelette if you like.
and so a friend on facebook (who actually posts more music than i do) shared this link. i hadn’t heard of her before. but i know i like the retro sound and i like the quality of her vocals. 

life during wartime

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two more free days in front of me. this will no doubt pass very quickly. i have things to do, but am not sure if i will get them all completed. but no matter i am in need of taking some time.

 i went to see “Life During Wartime” last night. what a strange buffet it was. without a doubt, i am  completely unqualified to relay the accurate intentions of this film. but i will state that i left with more questions than answers, and i love my life more when there are questions.  it was full of tears and ghosts, misdirection and missteps, and much of this was presented in such an exaggerated and retro-vivid style. it felt colorized and sanitized and sun bleached.  i found myself laughing because some of the scenes were so uncomfortable that i had to ease my own queasiness. Charlotte Rampling chewed the scenery with her very small scene at the Deauville Hotel on Miami Beach.

i made pear crisp yesterday and ate way too much of it. the pears are so superb right now and i used a box mix called “whistlestop cafe” from fannie flagg. for all you young folks, fannie flagg was a hoot of a celebrity who used to appear on “The Match Game” with Charles Nelson Reilly. She also wrote the screenplay “Fried Green Tomatoes At The Whistlestop Cafe” which later became one of my favorite films “Fried Green Tomatoes”. I am adding a link to the cooking items, as they fall in line with the current home cooking trend.

a friend has lost both his grandmothers this august. i am driving him to the airport to attend the second service. i think we are having lunch at park burger. a new one just opened in our neighborhood where the old “bump and grind”. but, we may end up going to d-bar as they have added a full menu to their once dessert only offerings.  i am giving him a copy of “when things fall apart” by pema chodron. this book still helps me find my way when the fan spews shit. “To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest.“… Pema Chodron

my building relandscaped along one street last weekend. there are 3 levels and it took 5 people 18-20 hours to get it done. there were lots of new plantings that were installed. we planted hydrangeas, dwarf korean lilacs, daphne, and 3 types of grasses. it will be months before we really see the results. who says i am not learning patience?

i bought the most amazing balsamic reduction at Marczyk’s last week. it is combined with truffles and has an undeniable earthy flavor. i used it on an heirloom tomato salad with fresh basil, but took it later that day to a party i was working and the the chef used it for the tenderloin and the salmon  she served. it is bottled by Cucina Viva and is imported from Italy.

as i consider a title for this post, and read the pastiche that makes up this post, i am reminded of a line in the film alluding to the truth that as a nation we are still involved in a war. a war that has been going on for so long that i have numbed myself to this fact. i put blinders on and try to forget that my country’s (and my own) addiction to fossil fuel has been at the core of nations tumbling and citizens dying. maybe this would account for the consistent crying jags, the visits from ghosts, the tortured memories, and the tattered relationships that filled each frame of that film..

tango for the tongue

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just beyond the millennium bridge at the end of the 16th St shuttle (at Union Station) is a whole new neighborhood which is part of the gentrification of that area. There are lofts, shops, cafes, and restaurants sprinkled among the new (and refurbished) construction. Everything looks clean and tidy and the pavement and landscaping still appear new. perched on a corner unit across from the park is a latin/asian fusion restaurant from Richard Sandoval named Zengo.

my friend and i went for dinner and i was genuinely surprised. the flavors were distinct, the spices and citruses were pungent, and the portions were generous. the servings are big and so are the prices. appetizers run about 10-15 and entrees are 21-34. but there is a tasting menu which runs sunday thru thursday and offers diners a sampler option.

i am posting the selections as we had them. the soft shell crab was lovely- completely. small flour tortillas, a cole slaw with lime and wasabi accented the crab perfectly. the salad course with grilled watermelon and seared ahi could have been a meal for me. but without the tenderloin languishing in ginger serrano i am not sure i would have gotten a real glimpse of the statement presented by Zengo. “Zengo is Japanese for give and take”, this give and take is completely evident and creates a beautifully choreographed tango for the tongue.

Zengo Denver
1610 Little Raven Street, Riverfront Park
Denver, CO 80202
Tel. 720.904.0965

find out more about zengo here

won bok slaw / thai chili
lemon~sake aioli / soft tortillas
avocado / kaiware sprout
grilled watermelon
lemon~wasabi dressing
masala~achiote grilled chicken breast
naan / black bean dal
cilantro / mango
beef tenderloin / broccolini / mushroom
onion / roasted corn salsa
ginger~serrano sauce
white chocolate ~ green tea ganache
vanilla ice cream

Barefoot Contessa’s Lemon Chicken with Croutons

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I had this for dinner last evening.. I can’t remember being so pleasantly surprised by a meal in quite some time.

Lemon Chicken with Croutons

Recipe By : Ina Garten – Barefoot in Paris

1 roasting chicken — (4 to 5-pound)

1 large yellow onion — sliced

Good olive oil

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 lemons — quartered

2 tablespoons unsalted butter — melted

6 cups bread cubes (1 baguette or round boule) — (3/4-inch)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Take the giblets out of the chicken and wash it inside and out. Remove any

excess fat and leftover pinfeathers. Toss the onion with a little olive

oil in a small roasting pan. Place the chicken on top and sprinkle the

inside of the cavity with salt and pepper. Place the lemons inside the

chicken. Pat the outside of the chicken dry with paper towels, brush it

with the melted butter, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Tie the legs

together with kitchen string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the


Roast for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut

between the leg and the thigh. Cover with foil and allow to sit at room

temperature for 15 minutes. (The onions may burn, but the flavor is good.)

Meanwhile, heat a large saute pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil until

very hot. Lower the heat to medium-low and saute the bread cubes, tossing

frequently, until nicely browned, 8 to

10 minutes. Add more olive oil, as needed, and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon

salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Place the croutons on a serving platter.

Slice the chicken and place it, plus all the pan juices, over the

croutons. Sprinkle with salt and serve warm.