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A Bright Winter Salad

March 2, 2011

When the weather turns cold and winter is on its way, there is only one reason I look forward to the change in seasons.  That reason is that I get to fire up the stove and cook dishes that I wouldn’t think of cooking during warm weather.  (Everything else about the weather turning cold makes me cry.) During the late fall and very long winter, I make hearty stews and soups, roasts, and braised meat all served with some sort of starch.  Anything, really, that resembles comfort food.  I relish these dishes and all the puttering in the kitchen they allow me when I’m nesting at home during the cold weather months.  And then about four months into winter (when will it be over?), I’m tired of all this rich, hearty food. I want ripe fruit and crisp vegetables that are in their prime in spring and summer. But these fruit and vegetables won’t be ready anytime soon and I’m stuck with the same old winter selection at the green grocers.

But Tart Apple and Celeriac salad does something magical. It feels relevant to winter, its main ingredients being onion, apple, and celeriac, but its bright flavours and crunchy textures feel like summer. This salad was referenced in passing on my celeriac soup posting.  But it is so good that after having my first bite I knew it would become part of my repertoire.  Finding a salad that works perfectly in winter but tastes fresh and bright at the same time?  Sign me up.

Tart Apple and Celeriac Salad
From Yotam Ottolenghi
Published in the Guardian UK, November 27, 2010

120 grams quinoa
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons caster sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 medium red onion, sliced very thinly
4 tablespoons canola oil
¼ head large celeriac
4 tablespoons lemon juice
2 to 3 granny smith apples
2 teaspoons poppy seeds
1 red chili, sliced thinly on an angle
Handful coriander leaves, roughly chopped

Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil, add the quinoa and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain into a fine sieve, run under cold water and then shake well to remove all the water. Leave to cool down.

While the quinoa is cooking, put the vinegar, sugar and salt in a medium mixing bowl and whisk to dissolve. Add the onion and, using your hands, rub the liquid into it. Add the canola oil, stir and set aside to marinate.

Peel the celeriac*, cut it into 3mm thick slices and then cut the slices into long, 3mm wide strips. Place these at once in a large mixing bowl, along with the lemon juice, and stir well. The lemon juice will help prevent discoloration. Peel and quarter the apples, remove and discard the cores, and cut the fruit into matchstick-shaped pieces similar to the celeriac. Add the apple to the celeriac bowl and stir well, so it, too, gets a protective coat of lemon juice. (The apples and celeriac can also be cut using a mandolin or a food processor.)

To finish, add the onion and any juices from its bowl to the apple and celeriac mix, then stir in the cooked quinoa, poppy seeds, chili and coriander. Taste and add extra salt, sugar or vinegar, if you need them. The salad should have a pungent, sweet and sour flavour.

*To peel celeriac:
Use a knife to carve off the thick, knobby outside layer. A vegetable peeler will make this job too difficult.  Trim both ends of the celeriac so they’re flat. Set the celeriac on a newly trimmed flat-side.  Starting from the top, take your knife and cut down the celeriac, following the curve of the vegetable. You’re taking off the outside layer from top to bottom. Go around the entire vegetable, using the same motion, until all of the thick outside layer is gone.

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