Vegetarian Italian Dinner Party

Vegetarian Italian Dinner Party

Ahoy Foodies!
It’s officially winter, more so for some of us than others. When it’s bitterly cold out it’s hard for any of us to remember to, or feel like, eating our veg. The idea of an iceberg lettuce salad when surrounded by icebergs is, well, just silly.
In an attempt to remedy this cold weather-salad conundrum, I give you a warm salad with Italian roots that doesn’t have a chilly leaf of lettuce in it. Instead, its main component is celery root, a knobby root related to the green stalk celery we’re all familiar with. Now celery root isn’t pretty, in fact, it’s pretty ugly. Covered with filamenty roots, thick beige skin, and a diminutive little tuft of leaves and sometimes stalks at the top, it hardly sells itself. But, pare away that tough exterior and you’ve got a heart of gold. Well, more like a crisp, creamy white flesh that is wonderful thinly sliced and served raw in salads like the one below. 
Celery root (center of bowl)
In this recipe, I toss it with raw mushrooms (wild ones if at all possible), warm du Puy lentils, and a nice, dry shaved sheep’s milk cheese. 
 It’s part of a larger Italian dinner party spread I did for MIX Magazine that includes an easy, decadent squash cannelloni with creme fraiche sauce, roasted peppers and warm marinated olives, and a brambly jam crostata. Click here to check out photos, all the recipes, and wine selections courtesy of Daryl at Cork: A Bottle Shop.
 
Buon Appetito!
Mushroom, Lentil & Celery Root Salad with Shaved Sheep Milk Cheese
Serves 6
This salad benefits from a few hours of marination time to help break down the mushrooms and celery root; plan on making it a few hours before guests arrive and let it sit at room temperature. Be sure to use small, dark green lentils du puy (available in bulk in grocery stores) that hold their shape while cooking. To guild the lily slightly and accentuate the crisp earthy flavor of the vegetables, I shave shards of firm, salty Sardinian sheep milk cheese over the top.
3/4 cup French lentils du puy
1 medium garlic clove, smashed
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup Italian parsley leaves, lightly packed
1/2 teaspoon truffle salt
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
One 1-pound celery root
4 ounces cremini mushrooms, brushed clean, trimmed, and thinly sliced
2 ounces oyster mushrooms, brushed clean, trimmed, and thinly sliced
1 ounce firm goat milk cheese
Pick over the lentils, discarding any stones. Rinse well and transfer to a small saucepan. Add 3 cups of cold water, the garlic, bay leaf, and 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the lentils are tender, 20-30 minutes. Drain, discard bay leaf and garlic; set aside in a warm place.
Place the parsley on a cutting board and sprinkle with the truffle salt. Chop until the parsley is coarsely chopped and wet looking. Transfer the parsley to a large bowl, add the lemon juice and zest, and gradually whisk in the olive oil. Add the drained lentils and mushrooms and toss to combine.
With a sharp chef’s knife, cut away the gnarled roots from the celery root. Peel the rest of the root with a sharp vegetable peeler and cut the celery root into 1/4-inch thick slices. Stack a few slices and cut them into 1/4-inch thick sticks, add them to the bowl with the lentils and toss with the dressing to prevent the celery root from oxidizing. Repeat with remaining celery root.
Taste the salad and season with salt and pepper, keeping in mind that the goat cheese will add a tangy bite of its own. Divide the salad among 6 salad plates. Using a sharp vegetable peeler, shave the cheese over the salads and serve.

 

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