Celeriac is a problematic vegetable. It's not very pretty. And although it has a subtle celery flavor, it is easily overpowered by other flavors. Despite many recipes floating around for mashed celeriac, its texture really doesn't lend itself well to mashing. And subtle can easily fade into "dull" if you aren't careful. The classic French treatment is a remoulade, i.e. a kind of a celariac coleslaw. It's not unpleasant, but it lacks the crunchiness of a good coleslaw and rarely has enough pepper for my taste. So what do you do when it turns up in your CSA box with irritating frequency? I have mashed it. I have made a gratin. I have paired it with beans for a hearty soup. But I still felt I was missing the poor vegetable's potential somehow.
And then I had a bit of an epiphany. Lunching with a friend recently, I tasted the Waldorf salad that she'd bought. Until then, my knowledge of the great Waldorf Salad was confined to laughing at the Waldorf Salad episode of Fawlty Towers and paging through the 1938 edition of The American Woman's Cookbook, which I inherited from my grandmother. I thought the idea of mixing mayonnaise and apple was faintly disgusting and best avoided. And yet...when I finally tasted the supermarket generic salad that she'd bought, I found I liked it. The flavor combinations worked just as well as you would expect in a recipe that has stood the test of 110 years' time. And so I thought of my humble celeriac, waiting in my veg box at home. Celeriac Waldorf Salad. Perfect.
And it is. Crunchy and savory and just a bit sweet, it's a very satisfying and reasonably healthy lunch. I have to admit, though, that I'm not as much of a genius as I thought I was when I first came up with the idea of using celeriac instead of actual celery in a Waldorf Salad. A quick web search revealed that I was not the first to come up with the idea by far. But that does not make it a bad idea - far from it! So here is my version, coming in at a bare 2 WeightWatchers points per serving.
Celeriac Waldorf Salad (makes two small salads)
1/2 a medium head of celeriac (about 250-300 g), peeled and chopped in small sticks
2 apples, washed, cored and chopped in small chunks
1 Tbs low fat mayonnaise
2 Tbs plain yogurt
1 tsp red wine vinegar
celery salt to taste
Garnish: a bit of chopped chives, a lettuce leaf or two
Heat the oven to 175C/350F. Spread the walnuts on a tray and place them in the oven for about five minutes, removing them just as they start to smell nutty. Do not leave them too long as they will easily burn. In the meantime, mix the mayonnaise, yogurt and vinegar in a medium bowl. Add a dash of celery salt and taste. Fold in the apples and celeriac. Chop the nuts and fold them in as well, reserve a couple pieces to place on top of the salad. Place a scoop of the mixture on a lettuce leaf or two, garnish with the chives and reserved walnuts and serve! Including the time spent preparing the celeriac and apples and toasting the walnuts, you shouldn't need more than 20 minutes for a healthy and very tasty lunch.