After having spent a week nursing a very sick little patient and surviving on noodle soup, crackers and lots of coffee, I desperately needed a break from grab and go meals taken on the fly in between monitoring for fevers, massaging sore joints, and mopping up little accidents in the bathroom. On the weekend, when Meat and Tater Man was home from a long distance assignment, I took a break from being a nurse and got back into the kitchen to cook my first meal in a week. I yearned for something more soothing and fulfilling than saltines and liquid meals, so I wanted to create something truly decadent to remind me of the pleasures of food, and its restorative powers which I so greatly needed at the time.
Food has the power to soothe and heal, and this is made evident when your normal eating habits are interrupted by life’s curve balls. I’m not the first mom to have to take care of a sick child, but it was the first time in a long time (years, I would say), that I’ve had to put life on hold to look after my little girl. Meetings got rescheduled to next week, my home office became my permanent base for the week, I let go of looking after anything critical or urgent, and locked myself upstairs with my baby to look after her aches and pains. But, after a long week, it was time to get back to laundry, work tasks, and cooking!
A quick supermarket trip resulted in an array of fresh root vegetables from which to plan my menu. Celeriac (more commonly known as celery root) made its way into my cart because I hadn’t seen it since last fall, wondering quietly to myself why it had been so long. Carrots and potatoes, my weekly regulars, took centre stage in my shopping cart alongside my other weekly regulars – bread, milk, cream, eggs, yogurt, celery, onions and fresh fruit. I skipped the too bruised apples for some fresh organic pears that were begging to be taken home. Some fresh scallops were just the ticket for an easy to prepare yet elegant feast for two on a Saturday night, happy to be paired with the freshest roots of the season.
I love the gentle flavours of celeriac, and combining them with the subtle floral notes from the pears was perfect, and complemented the scallops beautifully. This was so good that I plan on making it again, to the delight of Meat and Tater Man. I got the recipe for the puree from Diane Morgan’s fabulous book, Roots, which celebrates root vegetables in all their glory. Her recipes are easy to follow, and deliver on all counts – unexpected flavour pairings, out of the ordinary recipes, and successful results, every time. This is my go-to book in the fall, when root vegetables are at their most glorious. Diane recommended serving the puree as a side dish to roast pork tenderloin, but I do have to say that scallops were right on point with this dish. Either way, you’ll be pleased with the results.
The delicate flavours of the celery root play beautifully with the pears' floral notes. The vermouth brings it all together, and the cream brings a velvety texture to the puree. This is the perfect partner for mildly flavoured scallops, and when combined together on the plate, both make each other shine at their best.
The puree recipe is adapted from Diane Morgan's estimable and aptly named compendium of root vegetables, Roots. This recipe doubles easily.
- 1/2 celery root, about 3/4 pounds, trimmed, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
- Kosher or fine sea salt
- 2 pears, about 1 pound
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1/4 cup dry vermouth
- 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
- Freshly ground pepper
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 12 large scallops
- Place the celery root in a saucepan and cover with water. Add a teaspoon of salt, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat so the water simmers and cook until the celery root is tender when pierced with a knife, about 15 minutes.
- Drain the celery root and return it to the pan. Place the pan over low heat for one minute to evaporate any excess moisture.
- Meanwhile, peel, halve and core the pears and cut them into 1 inch chunks.
- In a large frying pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the pears and 1/2 tsp salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pears are soft, about 5 minutes.
- Add the vermouth and nutmeg and continue cooking until the pears are very soft and the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes more. Remove the pan from the heat.
- Blend the pears and celery root with the cream until completely smooth. (You can use an immersion blender, a regular blender or food processor). Do this in batches if necessary.
- Transfer the puree to a warmed serving bowl, or keep warm in the top of a double boiler. Or, you can cover the puree and rewarm it in a microwave oven. Season with salt and pepper.
- In another large frying pan over medium high heat, heat the olive oil. Add the scallops once the oil is hot, and cook 2 to 3 minutes per side. Season with a bit of salt and pepper if desired.
- Plate the puree on each plate, and then top with the scallops. Serve immediately.