Here is a soup that is made of some truly funky ingredients, which I decided to incorporate at the last minute, in what turned out to be a deliciously unique and flavorful concoction.
First off, let me say that I am not, per sé, a fan of black walnuts. They have a distinct, pungent smell that is reminiscent of camphor and at times even hinting of gasoline, and I never understood why people pay more for them when regular walnuts are easier to shell and taste better raw. But, ever the explorer, I bought a pound of (shelled) black walnuts and decided to befriend them and ask them what they’re all about. Indeed their mystery, like pine nuts, comes alive when you heat them and speak to them, and hear what they have to say.
In this recipe, the black walnuts are complemented by the strong earthy flavor profile combining bits of bitter and immense savoriness, with radicchio, ever the bitter herb, and the workhorse of the savory kitchen: celery root.
1 large celery root
1 small head of radicchio (use half a head for less bitterness)
(I got all my produce for this recipe at Mariposa food co-op)
2-3 cloves of garlic
4 tbsp. butter (I used Amish butter)
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. sea salt
Several turns of cracked black pepper
Fleur de sel
Some melted butter for garnishing
This pottage is as simple as it gets. Slice the celery root into halves or quarters and place in a stock pot, with the leaves, if present, and add water to just about cover the vegetable. Play “he loves me, he loves me not” with the leaves of the radicchio until you are satisfied with the quantity you’ve chosen and add them to the pot along with a teaspoon of sea salt, bay leaves, and some garlic cloves. Bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and let simmer for about an hour, or until the celery root is nice and soft.
Take the pot off the heat and let cool for a bit and then, fishing out the bay leaves and any garlic skins, place the contents in a blender, making sure to balance the amount of solids and liquids, add 2 tablespoons of butter, paprika, and cayenne, and then blend. (I use a Vitamix and usually a pot of soup will require two blending batches. Just repeat the process.)
Toast the black walnuts in a pan (a gas range is best for this, but it can be done on an electric range–just be careful not to burn them). Toast them well, moving them around in the pan the whole time. This can be a bit difficult to do precisely because they are already a dark brown color, but lean on your sense of smell, and do not let the pan become too smoky.
Once the walnuts are toasted to perfection, immediately toss them in a ceramic bowl to prevent the pan from cooking them further. Top with some fleur de sel and a generous round of fresh cracked black pepper.
Pour the blended pottage into bowls and top with the toasted walnuts, adding a final soupçon of fleur de sel and melted butter. Enjoy.