Growing up, grilled cheese sandwiches meant orange-rimmed, melted slices of Muenster cheese hugged tightly between two slices of buttered white bread. This comfort food classic is a childhood favorite and cemented Muenster as my cheese of choice.
Unfortunately, I have yet to find Muenster cheese at a local farmer’s market or though the Philadelphia Winter Harvest buying club. What I have found is celeriac, or celery root, a funky root vegetable with little physical resemblance to the familiar and graceful celery stalk. But beauty is only skin-deep, and like the creepy kohlrabi that I experimented with last winter, it’s uses are plentiful and its flavor mild, warm, comforting – perfect for cold, snowy weather, no stranger to the Philadelphia region this month.
So while I work on adjusting celeriac’s rustic image, Walmart is working on improving theirs. They recently announced an initiative to introduce healthier foods over the next five years by reducing sodium, sugar, and trans-fats in its Great Value brand. The company also promised lower prices of fruits and vegetables, a controversial statement since just last October, they promised to sell $1 billion globally in food sourced directly from small, medium, and local farmers in an effort to bolster farmland and community. How will this impact the bottom line of farmers that supply these products?
There’s been a strong call for the food industry to clean up its act (read about their most recent food label initiative) and this move by Walmart sets the stage for fellow food manufacturers and sellers to follow suit. I enjoyed Jane Black’s viewpoint at The Atlantic recognizing that food is personal and Americans like what they like, whether its healthy or not. If Walmart reformulates their popular, inexpensive products, millions of faithful shoppers may just reap the long-term health benefits. But public health experts such as Marion Nestle, Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University, remain skeptical, cognizant of Walmart’s for-profit status and somewhat vague, overall implementation plan.
So while Walmart’s image remains spotty, let’s tackle a subject with a rosier upside – celeriac slices layered among potatoes, onions and cheese in this recipe for Celeriac Gratin. Though celery root is not as starchy as a potato, it can be used similarly in recipes, such as mashed, roasted, and fried. It’s an excellent source of vitamins K and C, and a good source of vitamin B6, phosphorous, and fiber.
One of the things I miss about not belonging to a CSA is the weekly surprise selection of fresh produce, forcing me to experiment with new foods at times. So when I saw celeriac listed on the product list for my weekly buying club, I figured it was the perfect opportunity to try something new. I enjoyed this recipe and plan to make it again with some spinach for added color and texture, and maybe even try a different cheese (doubtful).
If you’re a fan of cheesy, creamy, and healthy comfort food (and great leftovers), this recipe’s for you — especially if you’ve never tried celeriac before. It’s comfort food, sophisticated.
Adapted from Jamie Oliver’s recipe.
Please click on the links below for more information on the local farmers who made this recipe possible.
- 1 medium potato, peeled and sliced into 1cm slices
- 1 /2 large celeriac (about 315 kg), peeled and sliced into 1cm slices
- 1/2 onion, peeled and finely sliced
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 cup Muenster cheese, grated (or your favorite cheese)
- 3/4 cup low-fat milk
- Preheat your oven to 400°F.
- Place the potatoes, celeriac and onion in an oven-safe baking dish. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add the garlic, cheese, and milk. Try to move everything around to mix all the flavors (my dish was a bit too crowded for this step, truth be told! Still turned out great.)
- Bake in the preheated oven for about 40 minutes, or until tender and golden.