Orchard Observations

F-3-Orchard-Observation-SGourmet soups and winter roots

By Megan Humphrey, Shelburne Orchards

If Vermonters were truly to “eat locally” this time of year, we’d all be eating a lot of root crops. After harvest in the autumn, crops such as cabbage, potatoes, winter squash, beets, and onions can be kept for a longer period of time in root cellars.

Root cellars were originally designed to store crops at a steady, low temperature. The temperature and humidity levels keep the food from freezing in the wintertime and prevent spoilage in the summertime. And yes, folks still build and use root cellars. We don’t have a root cellar, but our bumper crop of butternut squash continues to hold up well because our house is typically pretty cool.

I asked my friend, Melissa Pasanen, for a recipe that showcases a root crop. She chose one with celery root. I am including my own favorite recipe for butternut squash soup. Enjoy!

Celery Root Soup with Blue Cheese

Reprinted by permission. Copyright Melissa Pasanen and Rick Gencarelli, “Cooking with Shelburne Farms: Food and Stories from Vermont” (Viking, 2007).

This lovely, simple soup lets the earthy flavor of celery root, also known as celeriac, shine right through. It is the creation of Aaron Josinsky, Gencarelli’s sous-chef at the Inn (now chef and co-owner of Misery Loves Company in Winooski). At the Inn, they add a little butter when pureeing the soup and top each bowl with some roasted apples as well as a few more crumbles of blue cheese. The recipe serves 4, but can also be doubled.

Before you start

Don’t be scared of celery root’s rather gnarly appearance; that’s part of its charm and nothing a sharp knife or good vegetable peeler (we like the Y-shaped peelers) can’t take care of. Blue cheese lovers may want to add a little more blue, but take care not to overpower the celery root.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium celery root (celeriac, about 1 pound), peeled and cut into rough 1” chunks
  • 3 cups whole or 2 percent milk
  • ½ teaspoon coarse kosher salt plus more to taste
  • 1 cup chicken stock, preferably low sodium
  • 2 ounces crumbled (about ½ cup) best quality blue cheese, more for garnish if desired
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Method

In a medium saucepan, bring the celery root, milk, and salt just to a boil and then reduce heat to a steady simmer for about 30 minutes until a fork easily pierces a chunk of celery root.

Carefully pour the celery root and milk into a blender and blend (Tip: Use great care with the food processor or blender when blending hot liquids like soups. If you put the lid on tightly, steam can build up. Leave the center of the blender lid off or the feed tube of the food processor open, and cover the opening with a wadded kitchen towel. Start blending slowly and don’t overfill the machine; blend in batches if necessary).

Add chicken stock and blue cheese and blend until completely smooth.

Return the soup to the saucepan and warm it gently over medium-low heat. When the soup is hot, take it off the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Adjust seasoning to taste. Serve immediately sprinkled with additional blue cheese if desired.

Prepare Ahead Tip: The soup can be made ahead through step 3 and refrigerated for 2–3 days. Do not add the lemon juice before reheating because you risk curdling the soup.

Megan’s Butternut Squash Soup

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large red onion
  • 3 medium-size butternut squash, cubed and steamed
  • 2 apples peeled, cubed, and steamed
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 6 ounces crème fraiche
  • 2 teaspoons crushed rosemary
  • Rosemary stalks for garnish
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Steam squash and apples until tender. Sauté the onion in butter. Mix and then puree all ingredients except for the rosemary stalks. Let pureed soup simmer on low heat for 20 minutes. Serve hot, with rosemary stalks as garnish. I pair the butternut soup with a slice of my homemade multi-grain bread. Note: My friend, Shannon Page, substitutes the apples with 1 teaspoon Thai red curry paste combined with ¾ cup coconut milk and 1 teaspoon ginger powder.