I had never been one for fruits in my salad. Maybe it was a throwback to the times when I refused to let the foods on my plate touch each other (some kind of deep-seated attempt to control things out of my control, I'm sure), or perhaps it was just a particularly rigid set of taste buds rearing their fussy heads, but in my world fruit always came at the end of a meal, alone.
When my mother start tossing segmented blood oranges into our fennel-endive salad in winter, it only took me one meal to adjust to this new world order. More blood oranges for everyone! I couldn't get enough. But, to this day, the thought of Waldorf salad, or canned Mandarin segments in "Chinese" chicken salad, or dried blueberries in simple mesclun (as I was subjected to at a wedding last summer, and that got lodged, grittily, in my teeth) still induces a bit of a shudder in me.
How, then, did I actually get to the recipe in question? Well, you might remember that glorious potato salad I wrote about last year from Kurt Gutenbrunner (incidentally, readers, ChefDB? Has this site been around for a while? I'm tickled by it. It's like IMDb for food dorks, or something.). In that article, he'd also included a recipe for celery root and apple salad. And despite my aversion for fruits in my salad, I could never bring myself to throw this particular recipe away. Perhaps because of the cider vinegar and the flat-leafed parsley, and the lack of mayonnaise or chewy dried fruits or anything else of the squicky variety?
Or maybe I just finally grew up. Who knows. In any case, I decided last night that this simple salad would be the best end to a meal of spicy potatoes and chicken. And it was - cooling and refreshing to our tingling tastebuds (I got a little slap-happy with the dried chiles). The celery root, cooked briefly and then cooled in its hot bath, was earthy and almost creamy against the tart apple batons. The vinegar brightened and clarified the flavors, and the bold, green parsley leaves tucked here and there among the matchsticks added an herbal grace note to the salad.
A dish so sprightly can be hard to come by in winter, which made it even more of a treat. And though Ben was skeptical at first (a raw celery root can be a shock to behold, it's true), he ate up his portion and declared it delicious. I still think leafy greens with fruits are an abomination, but I can get behind this kind of fruited salad for sure.
One thing to note: this salad tastes delicious quite cold, so if you can plan ahead and cook the celery in advance, you'd be well-served...
Celery Root and Apple Salad
1 pound celery root, peeled and cut in matchsticks
1 Granny Smith apple
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup cider vinegar
3 tablespoons grapeseed or olive oil
10 flat-leaf parsley leaves
1. Place celery root matchsticks in saucepan with water to cover. Add lemon juice, sugar and generous pinch of salt. Bring to simmer and cook 3 minutes, until celery is crisp-tender. Let celery root cool to room temperature in cooking liquid, about 20 minutes. Drain.
2. Place celery root in bowl, Peel and core apple, cut in matchsticks, and add to celery root. Toss with vinegar and oil. Add additional salt if needed. Sprinkle with parsley leaves.