Leftover Love: Celeriac Soup

celeriac-soupI will never in a 1,000,000 years understand the hate-on for leftovers. What could possibly be wrong with having delicious meals in the fridge that you don’t have to cook? How does this not make breakfast stress-free? Workday lunches more economical and nutritious? Busy weeknight dinners a breeze? Are we so entranced by the variety of options available to us in the modern age – Mexican on Tuesday, Thai on Wednesday, Italian on Thursday – that we find eating the same dish twice in one week an unbearable hardship? Do leftovers remind us of tense family dinners when we were kids? Mom and Dad deadly silent, kids bickering, even the dog turning up his nose at three-day-old American chop suey?

I, for one, am in love with leftovers. If I were still single, I would marry leftovers. There are two of us here – just the two of us – yet I’ve never made a pot of soup that wouldn’t feed an army. I cook dried beans by the pound. I roast or braise huge hunks of meat – pork shoulders or beef roasts or whole chickens – and dole them out in various meals over the course of days. And maybe, just maybe, therein lies the rub. While I could happily (and did, back in my Kendall Square days) subsist on a bowl of chicken soup every day of my life, even I don’t generally want to eat the same exact meal for five days in a row. But that so rarely happens: today’s big pot of soup becomes tomorrow’s purée under seared meat or sautéed vegetables, which becomes the next day’s frittata or stew or tacos or salad or… well, you get the idea.

So, I thought I would try something a little different: a new short series, Leftover Love, wherein I show you how we eat in a normal, everyday week. About how, yes, there is usually a “recipe” or two in there, but there are many more of what I call “meal components:” a pot of beans, some grilled sausage, a huge mess of slow-roasted vegetables. And how those components get combined into different meals all week long. I’ll post here, once a day for a week, sometimes with a recipe and other times with a simple snapshot and description of how the meal components were re-imagined for breakfast, lunch or dinner that day.

It all has to start somewhere, so, are you ready? Celeriac, or celery root, soup. A classic thick and velvety smooth winter soup with the unmistakable flavor of celery. The soup that launched a 1,000 meals. Or at least a dozen or so.

Leftover Love is a series in which I enthuse about the joys of having a fridge packed full of rich & varied meal components – a.k.a “leftovers” – to aid you in making easy and delicious meals all week long.

celeriac-soupCeleriac Soup


  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 large leek, washed well and sliced, white and light green parts only
  • 1 large shallot, peeled & chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped (reserve leaves)
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled & smashed
  • sea salt
  • 3 lbs celeriac (2 large), scrubbed, peeled, coarsely chopped
  • ½ lb white potatoes (about 2 small), peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 large parsnip, peeled, coarsely chopped
  • ½ a lemon, seeds removed
  • water
  • about ⅓ cup sour cream or crème fraîche
  • freshly ground black pepper + a drizzle of olive oil, for garnish


  1. In a large Dutch oven or soup pot, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat until butter foam subsides. Add leek, shallot, celery and garlic. Sprinkle liberally with salt. Reduce heat to medium-low and sauté, stirring, until vegetables are softened and fragrant, about 5 – 8 minutes.
  2. Add celeriac, parsnip, potato and lemon half. Add water just to cover, plus another large pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low and simmer until celeriac is very soft, about 25 minutes.
  3. Remove lemon half. Blend soup until homogeneous and very smooth. Continue to simmer, uncovered, if necessary to thicken the soup. Dollop in sour cream, tasting as you go, and blend once more. Taste, adjust seasonings, and serve hot, garnished with olive oil, black pepper and celery leaves.

Serves 8 (or 2 for several days!).


  1. For a velvety smooth soup, push through a sieve prior to serving. I don’t have quite the right sieve for this, as my fine sieve left me with nothing but celeriac water, but a wide grade didn’t strain out anything at all. The best option was the finest disk on my food mill.
  2. You can of course substitute stock for some or all of the water, but I would recommend a lighter stock; corn, vegetable or chicken, in order not to obscure the somewhat delicate celery flavor.


Refrigerated for up to 1 week. Frozen for up to 6 months.




  1. Yes! This right here is what I call smart cooking. I’ve tried to explain to many people my style of cooking “in bulk” and how a pot of beans, a pork roast and some brown rice can turn into a serious array of good, diverse cooking. Those homemade condiments in the pantry also help a TON! 🙂

  2. Please, let me study your ways. I grew up in a world without leftovers (I was a picky kid who mostly lived on beans and toast, so yay! single servings!), and am now making a serious effort to halt the food wastage in my house. Last night I made empanadas from some leftover bacony rosemary meatloaf with spicy chickpea-tomato sauce and they were the BEST THING. Lesson: wrapping scraps in flaky pastry is a cunning plan that cannot fail.

    • Absolutely! In fact, it’s pretty much hard to go wrong when you wrap anything in flaky pastry. Kudos for trying to limit your food waste: it boggles the mind how much food ends up in the trash here in America.

  3. My husband and friends joke that I could feed the world. I learned to cook “big” from my mom, with our little family of 5. But I really learned to cook BIG as a caterer. I am still amazed at how little it takes to feed so many sometimes. As far as variety, I’ve tried to narrow it down to an Asian week, a Mexican week, a bistro week, an all-american week. That way, the ginger, cilantro, hot dog buns, beans, etc, usually get used up all in one week. Hopefully.

  4. How this made me laugh! i couldn’t agree with you more. Perhaps part of the problem is the word “leftovers”; it just sounds so dreary! I love the soup too – I had never thought to add peppery parsnips and lemon. Always looking for another way to make celeriac soup (I usually just add blue cheese or top with crispy bacon). I shall definitely be giving this one a go!

  5. Leftovers are the greatest! They make it so much easier to actually eat a reasonable lunch the next day. This soup sounds wonderful–super comforting for a cold winter night (and noon the next day besides).

  6. Pure and Simple Living

    Using leftovers is easy on time, the pocket book and the environment; and then there’s the “delicious factor”! Am looking forward to more of your recipes! This one looks so very tasty!! Am looking forward to trying it out.

  7. EL

    Beautiful soup! I’m looking forward to making it. I really love this idea and am looking forward to reading the rest of the posts. I feed myself but cook large meals and freeze a lot in my little freezer. It’s easy to mix it up.

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