Celery is vastly underappreciated. Sure, it's an ingredient in mirepoix, but how often is it the star of the show, the feature flavor? I, for one, love its juicy crunch and bitter herbaceousness. Here's a dish that is a study in the flavor of celery. It was inspired by celeriac from the farmers market.
I added lovage from the garden and celery seeds for a variety of different celery flavor notes.
But before I get to the recipe, I'd like to invite you to visit my new photography portfolio. I've added a link to it in the sidebar on the right. It's a work in progress, but I hope you like it!
Celeriac Soup with Seared Scallops & Lovage Oil*
1 celeriac, diced
1 leek, pale parts only, cut in half lengthwise and sliced
1 small parsnip, diced
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme
1 sprig Italian parsley
2 tablespoons packed lovage leaves
¼ cup plus 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
12 large sea scallops (about 1 pound), feet removed
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon celery seeds, ground
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Combine the celeriac, leek, parsnip, bay leaf, thyme, parsley, and 2 quarts water in a large, heavy pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the celeriac is tender.
Meanwhile, combine the lovage and ¼ cup of the oil in a blender and blend until smooth. Gently pat the scallops dry with paper towels. Season them generously with salt and pepper, sprinkle with the celery seed, and set aside at room temperature for about half an hour.
Strain the lovage oil through a fine mesh sieve. Heat a large, heavy sauté pan over high heat until very hot but not smoking. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the scallops and cook without disturbing for 2 to 3 minutes, or until they release from the pan and are crusty and brown. Using tongs, turn the scallops and continue to cook over high heat another 1 to 2 minutes, or until the desired doneness. Moisture will just begin to accumulate on the surface of the scallops when they are medium-rare. Remove the scallops to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm.
Discard the bay leaf, thyme sprig, and parsley sprig from the soup, remove from the heat, and puree with an immersion blender until smooth. Strain through a fine mesh sieve. Add the lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper. Arrange the scallops in shallow individual bowls, divide the soup among them, being careful not to pour it directly over the scallops, and drizzle with the lovage oil. Serve immediately.
Serves 4 to 6. Celeriac is also known as celery root. Leeks tend to be very dirty, so rinse them thoroughly after you chop them. Celery leaves can be used if lovage leaves are unavailable. If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can use a regular blender but remember: never fill a blender more than half way with hot liquid. This means you will need to blend the soup in batches and reheat it before serving.
*For everything you ever wanted to know about searing, plus dozens of fabulous searing recipes, look for my book Seared to Perfection in stores now.