Celeriac Cutlets (Croquettes)

As promised last month, more veganized versions of the homey and comforting cooking of Fania Lewando.  This is my vegan adaptation and reinterpretation of her recipe, from the Vilna Vegetarian Cookbook initially published in the late 1930s.  The book is a must-have for food enthusiasts and historians, as well as for anyone who has an interest in Jewish cooking.  These cutlets, besides being tasty, are cute and dainty.  Try them served in a wrap or as little islands amidst a sea of sauce.

Yield: 14 cutlets

What you need:

  • 1 medium celeriac (celery root), about 1 lb
  • 1 large leek
  • 1 small package (150g) of silken tofu
  • 1 cup cooked, leftover (cold) rice (cooked buckwheat will also work if you’re gluten-free, but it will taste stronger/different)
  • salt
  • fresh thyme (or dry if you don’t have fresh)
  • fresh dillweed (or dry if you don’t have fresh)
  • freshly ground black pepper (optional)
  • vegan butter-flavoured coconut oil or olive oil

What you do:

  1. Peel the celery root, cut it into large chunks and steam until tender.  Alternatively, you can pressure steam the whole root, unpeeled, for about 20 minutes and then fast release the pressure, cool and then peel.
  2. Dice the leek, the whole thing: greens and all.  Heat a cast-iron pan or heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat.  Add the oil of your choice and the leek.  Stir and fry, lowering the heat to medium-low, until the veggie is brightly coloured, soft and fragrant.  There will be some golden bits happening and that’s just fine.  If using dry spices instead of fresh, add them now, and stir and fry another 2 minutes or so, until fragrant.  Remove from heat and cool.
  3. Place the cooked leek, celery root and tofu in the work bowl of a food processor.  Pulse until creamy/chunky (a bit of both).  Add the cooked rice, fresh dill and thyme (if using), and salt.  Pulse some more, until you have a creamy, stick mass with some identifiable bits of leek and celeriac.  Taste for salt, and adjust as desired.  If you like fresh pepper, you could add some of that too.         IMG_3729
  4. Refrigerate the mixture a half-hour or so.  (You don’t absolutely have to, but it does make the cutlets easier to shape.)  Meanwhile preheat the oven to 375F.
  5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone liner.  Shape the mixture into 14 small cutlets, each about 1/2” to 3/4” thick.
  6. Bake 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven and flip carefully using a very thin metal spatula so you don’t tear the golden surface on the bottom.  Return to the oven and bake another 15 to 20 minutes, until golden to taste.
  7. Serve.

Variation:

  • Replace the celeriac with another root vegetable you have on-hand: rutabaga, carrot, turnip, beet, sweet potato – or a combination thereof!

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