I will be a wholehearted gardener for the rest of my life. I used to say I was more of a casual type with this hobby, but I think the tide turned over on that a while ago. If you are in desperate need of stillness and purpose, you can go into your own patch of dirt and dig, pull, prune, putter and marvel at what you’ve accomplished with your weatherworn hands. It’s water and sun and earth, all sculpted by our own determination. The land is ours and it lets us dig ourselves out of whatever rut we’re in. I used to laugh when my dad qualified his own love of gardening by quipping “They don’t talk back…”, but I get it now. When my inbox is multi-paged, the bills are piling up, there’s drama at work, or when I’ve just had one of those days, you can find me out there with my big girl boots on, just getting dirty and feeling the feelings. The plants don’t talk back, obviously, but there’s a certain reassurance of your place in the world when you tend to them.
I planted a lot of things this year, all successful in some way or another. I think I inherited some special plant-y awareness from my parents/just actually listened to their advice because that little kitchen garden of ours really kept us in food for the last few months. I still have some greens out there, but I saved the pulling of my absolute favourite vegetable for when the Fall was certifiably cool. The celery roots. The ones that look like baby aliens, but taste like absolute heaven. Creamy textured, sweet, kinda grassy like parsley and, yes, celery-like.
But mine were so small! Nothing at all like those big, knubby, market ones. Lots of green leafy stalks and tangled up roots full of dirt, ie lots of bits to cut around before you had any real food. My dad advised that I put them in a low spot of the garden for maximal water absorption and then further explained why they can be a bit pricy: they have to take up so much real estate for so long! Next year I’ll get it right. In the meantime, I managed to scrounge up just enough for two dinners’ worth.
One night I roasted some rough dices with other roots and squash, served it with a spicy gingered quinoa pilaf and a wispy knot of kale, apple and fennel slaw on top. And the other, I served clouds of puréed celery root on top of these little pies–garden keeper’s pies as I’m calling them. I made some small dices of beets, carrots and butternut squash and slowly cooked them down with black lentils, vegetable stock, garlic, and rosemary. Small additions of balsamic vinegar and tamari round the flavours out, kind of ever-so-slightly reminding me of borscht. I much prefer this smoothed out celery root to the more traditional potato topping too. It’s a bit more interesting and light, but comforting and familiar all the same. I know all of my American pals are coming up on Thanksgiving, so I wanted to offer up a main course option for the vegetable lovers. Side dishes can be a vegan/vegetarian’s closest ally at the holiday table, but a thoughtful main can make the heart glow just a bit fonder (not a Tofurkey kinda gal).
Since this one takes a little bit of extra choppin’, I was really excited that the folks from McClure Tables were able to hook me up with a gorgeous, hard maple chopping block right on time. Did you peep it in these photos? I just enjoy looking at it on my counter because it exudes this “strength to get the job done” vibe that I can really get down with. All of the scraps from their shuffleboards and other large scale products are turned into butcher block countertops, cutting boards, and chopping blocks. You have to respect a company that makes a true effort at zero waste.
They’re letting me pass a little kindness onto you as well by offering up one (1) butcher block cutting board to give away here! To enter the giveaway, please leave a comment on this post, telling me about your favourite holiday dish–a main, side dish, beverage (non-denominational, non-dairy nog anyone?), dessert, little snack, whatever! (yes I just said “holiday dish” like an adorable grandma *blushing emoji face*) I figure just recalling a seasonal fave will get us all in an appropriately festive mood, right? Giveaway is open to US residents only and I’ll take entries until next Tuesday (November 18th) at midnight. The winner will be notified by email the following Wednesday. Good luck, lovelies! xo Giveaway is now closed. Thanks!
garden keeper’s pie w/ beets, lentils + creamy celery root mash recipe
print the recipe here!
notes: These are rough measures, but this isn’t a fussy endeavour by any means. You’re just making one big sauté, thickening it with arrowroot, topping it with a rustic mash and baking it until the whole thing bubbles and browns. Some cooked beans would fill in nicely for the lentils. Just make sure you throw them in closer to the end of the cooking process.
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cooking onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 sprig of rosemary, leaves minced
4 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed + divided
pinch of chili flakes (optional)
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
5 cups-worth of small diced, hardy vegetables (I used a mix of butternut squash, carrots and beets)
1/3 cup black or french lentils, rinsed
2 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1 tsp tamari soy sauce
salt + pepper
2 tsp arrowroot powder
1 tbsp cold filtered water
celery root mash ingredients:
3 cups peeled + 1-inch-diced celery root
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil + extra
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
salt + pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly oil 4 ramekins/cocottes/mini gratin dishes with at least 8 oz/1 cup capacity. Place dishes on a sheet pan and set aside.
For the filling, heat the 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the diced onion and sauté until very, very soft, about 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the minced garlic, rosemary, thyme, and chili flakes (if using) to the pot and stir. Sauté until the garlic is very fragrant, about 45 seconds. Add the balsamic vinegar and stir. Add the 5 cups of diced vegetables and the lentils to the pot and stir to coat everything in the oil. Season heartily with salt and pepper. Sauté the vegetables and lentils another two minutes or so, stirring often. Add the vegetable stock and tamari and stir. The liquid should cover all the vegetables and lentils nicely, by about a half inch. Bring the mixture to a boil and then simmer until the vegetables are tender and the lentils are just soft, about 45 minutes. It helps if you place a lid on top of the pot slightly askew, leaving a little gap for air to escape.
When the filling is done, in a small bowl mix together the arrowroot powder and cold water. Scrape this slurry into the pot with the filling and stir to mix it in. Remove the pot from the heat.
For the celery root mash, place the diced celery root and garlic cloves in a medium saucepan. Cover the vegetables with cold water/vegetable stock if you like, and then place the pot over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil and then simmer until the celery root pieces are tender, about 15 minutes. Drain the celery root and garlic, and place it in a food processor fitted with the “S” blade. Pulse the vegetables a couple times to get them moving. Add the olive oil, unsweetened almond milk, and some salt and pepper. Run the motor on high until you have a cream, homogenous mixture. Check it for seasoning and adjust if necessary.
Divide the filling amongst the 4 oiled dishes. Then, divide the celery root mash among the tops of the 4 dishes, smoothing it out with a butter knife or spatula. Drizzle a bit of olive oil on top of each pie and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and thyme leaves. Place the assembled pies back on the baking sheet and slide into the oven. Bake the pies until the filling is bubbling and the tops are very lightly browned, about 20 minutes.