Family Obsessions

January 20, 2012

In my family, there is this thing we do when we find something we want.  Some might call it obsess.  Some might call it fixate.  However you want to name it, both of my brothers and I will, on occasion, seize upon something and not let it go until it is ours.  My dad has a touch of this characteristic so it probably came from his gene pool.  This thing we want is not necessarily a tangible thing.  Maybe it’s an experience we want to try or a place we want to visit.  One of the earliest memories I have of this trait is my brother Alex saying over and over again that he wanted to go see the movie Outrageous Fortune.  It was 1987 and we were on a ski vacation staying in sleepy town in central Washington.  All that stands out from that trip is him saying, “All right, let’s go see Outrageous Fortune” over and over again until we finally went just to shut him up already.

This same brother recently got it in his head that he wanted an almost full sleeve Polynesian tattoo.  (For the record, my family is Jewish and hails from Eastern Europe.)  He did a lot of research and found that one of the experts in the country lives in Vegas.  He booked two trips and sat for almost 24 hours under the needle to get this tattoo.  His wife was not excited about it but she has learned that once Alex gets an idea in his head, that idea is happening.  My brother Michael’s obsessions have included bikes and biking gear.  With my dad, stereo equipment.  Me, well, there have been some big things – like the past two houses we have owned – and small-ish.  Like a blender.

About  a year ago, I got it in my head that I needed a VitaMix blender.  I had seen enough bloggers write love letters to their VitaMix and knew enough people who had an adored one that I felt it was the one appliance keeping my kitchen from being perfect.  I had a blender, of course, but it was over ten years old and really didn’t work that well.

Now, I am more subtle than Alex.  I only worked the VitaMix into conversations a couple of times a week for an entire year – not multiple times daily.  But I did it enough that Spencer, who is not quite five, said as I was making him a lumpy smoothie, “Mommy, you need a new blender”.  Lo and behold, a few weeks before Christmas, we got a friends and family discount coupon from Williams Sonoma for 20% off.  Now, those blenders never go on sale – never.  The price at Costco is the same price everywhere – there is no deal to be had.  I know this because my husband looked around to, you know, shut me up already, and he kept finding the same price.  And that price is expensive.  But 20% off is slightly less expensive so Randy passed the coupon on to Santa and the man in red brought me a blender.

My first smoothie test drive came on Christmas morning.  And it was good.  Smooth.  Not earth shattering.  And I had to keep using the tamper to move the contents around so the blades would keep moving.  Is this what you get for an over $400 blender?  I kept making smoothies and kept worrying that I had made a mistake.  Wondering if Williams Sonoma might take back a blender without the box because it’s not earth-shattering.  So I started asking around.  What did people who owned them make in their VitaMix?  What made it irresistible?  I got several different answers but all the people I asked said soup.

Of course.  That dreamy but ever elusive soup with the smooth velvety texture you find in restaurants.  The perfect purée.  I have tried with my food processor, my blender, and my very competent immersion blender but I could never get a lump free soup.  I even tried all three appliances for one soup for a very special dinner and I made an enormous mess and a still somewhat lumpy soup.  An intriguing bread recipe came through my inbox recently, which I will write about soon, and there was a link to a celery root soup.  I knew this would be my test run for the blender.

Do you use celery root in your cooking?  I think it is the loveliest tasting ugly vegetable out there.  I love recipes that tell you to “peel” it – I know of no peeler you could use to successfully navigate the thick skin and gnarly roots of this beauty.  A sharp knife is the best tool for this job and under that somewhat scary exterior lies a smooth white subtly scented interior.  Celery root is wonderful shaved raw, diced and sautéed, simmered, and boiled to oblivion and puréed.  Not too many vegetables you can say that about.  In this soup, it simmers along with leek, potato, garlic, and a chopped apple.  I added some thyme to the recipe – it needed an herb.  Your end result is one of those subtly flavored, perfectly textured soups that tastes creamy, feels creamy in the mouth, but contains no cream.  In fact, this soup is vegan.  I’m keeping that VitaMix.

One Year Ago:  Winter Market Soup
Two Years Ago:  Lasagne with Eggplant and Chard
Three Years Ago:  Sicilian Eggplant Spread with Crostini

Celery Root Soup
Adapted from Chow
Serves 4-6

I topped this soup with a sprinkle of garlicky breadcrumbs that I had leftover from another recipe.  I loved the added dimension of texture and the hint of flavor.  This soup would also taste great with larger croutons of grilled bread or without any garnish at all.

Olive oil
1 cup thinly sliced leek (about 1 medium), white and light green parts only
Kosher or sea salt
2 ½ pounds celery root, also known as celeriac (about 3 medium), peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
12 ounces boiling potatoes (about 2 large), peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 medium tart apple, such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
2 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves, chopped or 1 tsp. dried thyme
Freshly ground black pepper
3 cups water
2 cups vegetable broth (I like Rapunzel brand)
Bread crumbs, for garnish (optional)
Garlicky breadcrumbs, optional

Place a large saucepan with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high.  Pour in just enough olive oil to coat the bottom, then add the leeks with a large pinch of salt.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add celery root, potatoes, apple, garlic, thyme, another pinch salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Stir to coat vegetables with oil, add water and broth, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until vegetables just give way when pierced with a knife, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Using a blender, purée the soup in batches until smooth, removing the small cap from the blender lid (the pour lid) and covering the space with a kitchen towel (this allows steam from the hot soup to escape and prevents the blender lid from popping off). Once blended, transfer the soup back to the saucepan and keep warm over low heat.  Taste and season with additional salt and pepper as needed. To serve, drizzle with olive oil and breadcrumbs if desired.

Garlicky Breadcrumbs

3 large thick slices stale country bread
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
Kosher or sea salt

Tear the slices of bread into small pieces.  Put into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade.  Process into very fine crumbs.  You may need to stop the machine and move the bread around a bit and will have to process for a couple of minutes to get the right consistency.  Set aside.

Place a sauté pan over medium heat.  Drizzle in the oil, then add the bread crumbs and the garlic along with a large pinch of salt.  Sauté, stirring occasionally, until the bread is nice and crunchy, about 10 minutes.  Set aside.  (Unused breadcrumbs can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for a few days.)


  1. I’ve never tried celery root before & I want want want a vitamix! I think the celery root is probably more doable since I’ve got the counter space for it :)

    Comment by kickpleat — January 20, 2012 @ 2:54 am

  2. Just in time for National Soup Swap Day on Saturday! There are a few happening in
    Seattle, you can find Soup Swap on Facebook or at Or have one with your neighbors! This isn’t my website, I just love the idea for sharing soup with friends. And yours looks delicious! :)

    Comment by emmycooks — January 20, 2012 @ 9:48 am

  3. I don’t think I’ve ever even see a celery root or maybe I have and rushed by because I didn’t know what it was. I think I should try this even though I only have an immersion blender…

    Comment by Charlotte — January 20, 2012 @ 4:26 pm

  4. My husband is that same kind of obsessive. Unfortunately, he also tends to lose interest in things shortly after a spurt of intense obsession.
    I’m glad to hear that your Vitamix lived up to your expectations. I have forbidden myself to spend that much money on a blender. With a coupon, though, tempting…
    I love your description of celery root! It’s yummy but ugly, so true!

    Comment by Rachel — January 20, 2012 @ 6:22 pm

  5. Charlotte – don’t let the lack of a crazy expensive blender deter you – this soup is incredibly tasty and would be so even it if wasn’t “perfectly” smooth.

    Comment by dana — January 20, 2012 @ 6:39 pm

  6. Hi Dana- Here’s my VitaMix two cents…

    It’s great for hummus. Way better texture than my food processor. Although you will need to use the tamper. Which is kinda a pain, but totally worth it. Awesome for pesto as well. Really smooth consistency. And veggie mushroom gravy. Partial puree of soups to help give them a little body. Grinds parmesan cheese really well. Finer than a food processor. Good for nut butters. Make some fresh almond butter and you’ll never want to eat the stuff in a jar again. Even the organic stuff. And it’s super easy (and less expensive). Also, don’t forget grinding flours. Also, totally easy. There’s a different container for this. But, I usually get lazy and just use the regular container since I mostly do oats. Need to get more organized in that department… Also great for making powdered sugar from organic sugar. Or at least breaking it down a little finer. I find the crystals to be a little large for certain baked goods. And last, I hear the VM is great for a lot of raw food recipes. New area of exploration.?

    As for smoothies, I make them all the time never need the tamper. Some times a chunk of apple or something might get caught on the blade. So I turn it off & swish it around with a spoon. Just like any other blender. Sounds like you might be using a lot of frozen fruit.? Try a little more liquid to get things moving. Unless your going for an ice cream consistency. Oh, and try one of the ice cream recipes from the book that came with it (if they still do that). I made the strawberry one a few times, and it was great. Perfect consistency. It’s all about the ratios.

    Anyway, I’ve had my vitamix for twelve years and still love it. A reliable workhorse. Not always as easy to clean as they say; with no removable bottom it’s not always the easiest to get stuff out of, and sometimes dealing with the right consistency to get things moving and/or combined with the tamper can be challenging, but most definitely worth the end product. Way more powerful than an ordinary blender. Trust me, eventually you’ll never be able to go back.

    Comment by Ren — January 21, 2012 @ 12:17 am

  7. I just discovered celeriac this year, too, and I adore it! I don’t like celery but somehow I like celery root. ;) This looks like a great soup to try. :)

    Comment by janet @ the taste space — January 21, 2012 @ 2:13 am

  8. One day, I will own a VitaMix…and until then, i will eat lumpy soup!

    I’m quite obsessive also. It’s in my personality. Usually it’s about running gear or good chocolate or butternut squash. No tattoo obsessions yet, thank god.

    I wish I liked celery root, I really do. this is probably the one point on which we differ. It just tastes too much like celery to me, which is the only vegetable that activates my gag reflex. I’m sorry love!

    Comment by Joanne — January 21, 2012 @ 2:30 am

  9. I like ALL my soups chunky so am fine with out a vitamix – this looks like a delicious one!!

    And I always think people incapable of obsession must really be very dull! xox

    Comment by Em (Wine and Butter) — January 21, 2012 @ 10:10 am

  10. why are the vitamix’s so pricey?
    i mean really. i know they are well made and stuff, but it’s not like the parts are super expensive and its made by hand you know?

    Comment by vanillasugarblog — January 21, 2012 @ 5:35 pm

  11. I got a Vitamix for Christmas/my birthday (YAY!) and I have to agree that the most amazing thing it can do is puree soups and make them irresistably creamy and even textured.

    I’ve made almond milk in mine, also, and it’s really easy and very good.

    Comment by Nicole — January 23, 2012 @ 6:59 pm

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