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It’s mottled. It’s hairy. Its tangle of roots hide hunks of dirt and make it hard as a softball.

But I’m curious. Cookbook authors have been singing the praises of celery root for years now, but I’ve never mussed up the courage to buy one.

Until now.

Much as Hollywood loves a transformative story (Julia Roberts going classy from trashy in Pretty Woman; Anne Hathaway morphing from nerdy to regal in The Princess Diaries), I love the alchemy of the kitchen. Surely we can coax something lovely from this mess of a veggie.

Still, I’m prepared for battle. Everyone says celery root is finicky: Hard to peel, hard to cut … a real preparation nightmare. So I take out my sharpest knife, take a deep breath and dig in.

Turns out, everyone is wrong. Celery root is no harder to deal with than a fat, dimpled sweet potato. And once you take off that brown, wrinkled skin, you have a pristine ball of pale cream flesh that’s both tender and delicately delicious.

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I decide to make a celery root slaw. Thanks to my food processor, I have lovely, tender shreds of celery root in mere seconds:

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Tossed with a handful of herbs and dressed with mustard, lemon juice, garlic and olive oil, they make a refreshing side dish for our panfried pork chops. My one celery root makes enough slaw for 6-8 people and is loaded with Vitamin C, Vitamin B-6 and calcium.

A Hollywood transformation in my own kitchen: An alien becomes a family-friendly favorite!

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Celery Root Slaw

Celery root’s flesh has a mild, celery-like flavor. Its leaves are another matter entirely. They’re assertive and pretty bitter. Use them judiciously!

  • 1 celery root
  • 1 tablespoon celery root leaves
  • 1/2 cup parsley
  • 2 tablespoons fennel fronds (optional)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons grainy mustard
  • 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Using a sharp knife, cut the leaves and top quarter inch off of your celery root.

Peel the top and sides with a vegetable peeler. When you get to the gnarled root end, use a paring knife to cut the skin and tough roots away.

Cut the root into quarters and shred, using the shredding disk of a food processor.

Place the shreds in a bowl. Roughly chop your herbs, and add them to the root.

Mince the garlic and place it in a small bowl. Add the lemon juice and mustard, then whisk in the olive oil. Taste for balance, adding more oil or lemon juice as you need. Season with salt and pepper.

Pour the dressing over the celery root and toss well. Let the slaw sit for 5-10 minutes so the flavors meld.

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