Celery root soup with apples and Hawaji from the Zahav cookbook.

Celery root soup with apples and Hawaji

Now that it is unmistakably fall, I’m trying to deal with it by embracing autumnal dishes, including soups. Michael isn’t the biggest fan of soup, but I’ve made inroads with him thanks to how refreshing gazpacho is during the summer. That said, when it comes to cold-weather soups, I need to show him something compelling to get him excited about a soup and perhaps one of the most interesting that I’ve presented to him during our weekly meal-planning discussions is this soup made with celery root, apples, onions, celery, and seasoned very well with the Hawaji seasoning blend from the Zahav cookbook. 

Between that cookbook and Michael Solomonov’s follow-up Israeli Soul, there are a lot of really good spice blends to be found, and one of the simplest of them is what’s known as Hawaji, which is basically a blend of turmeric, cumin, and black pepper. I’ve used this blend to make chicken, and I absolutely adore it in this soup because both the celery root and the Fuji apples are a little on the blander side, and therefore are the perfect canvases to absorb all of that wonderful, intense flavor. 

This soup is not terribly complicated, but the primary consideration you want to make is timing. Making it ahead is ideal to allow the flavors to marry as much as possible. While overnight is ideal, even doing it four hours before and then reheating it for service helps to let the spice blend work its magic in the fridge. The intensity is almost too much initially but it gets so much better with time.

The version that you see here is one that I strained per the original recipe’s instructions, but if you want a more substantial soup, I don’t think straining it is as critical as it might be in other soup recipes, but I’ll leave that up to you.

For an unique take on the classic fall soup, definitely give this one a try–you’ll be very happy you did, even from the health boost of having all of that turmeric. I kind of want to make this all fall and winter to have something warm and fortifying to sip on when I could use that particular benefit. 

Celery root soup with apples and Hawaji

Lightly adapted from Zahav

Serves 4-6 as an appetizer

  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and sliced thinly
  • 2 ribs of celery, sliced thinly
  • 2 tablespoons Hawaji seasoning, plus more for garnish (recipe to follow)
  • 2 celery roots, trimmed and peeled and sliced thinly
  • 1 tablespoon of salt
  • 2 quarts of water
  • 2 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced (I used Fuji which work well in this)

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat, and add the onion, celery, a tablespoon of the Hawaji seasoning, and the salt. Cook the vegetables until they are soft but not brown, about 7 minutes. Add the celery root and toss them well to combine and coat with the seasoning, bring the heat down to low, and let the pan cook for 45 minutes until the celery root is starting to break down (basically you can break up the slices with a spatula). 

Hold off on starting to peel the apples until about 15 minutes before the 45 minute cooking time is up to reduce the amount of browning, and then add them, the second tablespoon of the Hawaji, and the two quarts of water to the pan. Bring the heat up to bring the pan to a simmer, and let it go until the apples are soft, about 10 minutes. 

Blend the soup with an immersion blender until it’s very smooth, and if a smoother texture is desired, strain the soup. Let the soup sit for at least four hours up to overnight in the fridge, and reheat when ready to serve. Serve with a garnish of Hawaji sprinkled on top, if desired.

Hawaji spice blend

Lightly adapted from Zahav

  • 1 tablespoon plus one teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon plus one teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Combine the spices into a small container and shake well to combine.

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