The French call it false celery — or, at least that’s the translation for the term. And according to “The New Food Lover’s Companion,” it was once used as a treatment for … freckles.
After all as any “Anne of Green Gables,” fan knows, freckles are a curse — to Anne Shirley at least. I personally always found them cute and desirable.
In any case, the herb, available at spring farmers markets here in Maine, is lovage. Like the French term suggests, it has a flavor similar to celery — but without the texture. The leaves can be chopped, minced and otherwise cut up and used as a seasoning in dishes from vinaigrettes to salads to sauces. And the stalks are edible as well — cook them, perhaps in a stir fry?
Lovage and I first made acquaintance a year ago at the Bangor Farmers Market. I’d been eying it for weeks, intrigued by the name (I mean, come on, wouldn’t you be intrigued by something with such a fun name?) and finally asked Brittany from Wise Acres Farm in Kenduskeag. She kindly explained that it’s a herb, how it tasted and what to use it for.
So when I saw lovage appear in the market again this spring, I had to buy some. I started considering applications in which this herb might be ideal. It could add vibrancy to a risotto, for instance, or freshen up a recipe for pesto or chimichurri. But what about a salad?
German potato salad is one of my very favorites — though I don’t think the German-style method of salad making should be reserved for white potatoes. No, it’s delicious with other things too like sweet potatoes or even roasted cauliflower.
In fact, I might go so far as to say it’s absolutely excellent with cauliflower. Indeed.
This salad has tender, caramelized pieces of roasted cauliflower, salty bits of bacon, piquant bits of red onion, bright freshness from lovage and parsley and a delightful sweet-tangy dressing. It’s fantastic — and perfect for all those barbecues that are sure to happen whenever the sun comes back.
To make this, you start by roasting cauliflower. For this, I toss one-inch pieces with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast it at a high temperature until it’s caramelized.
Then I combine it with crispy bacon, sweet onion, lovage and parsley. Finally, it’s all tossed with a sweet-savory vinaigrette.
Let it sit and chill a little before you serve it. These flavors improve and deepen as it rests.
Then dig in, enjoy and marvel over how much good flavor lovage brings to this dish. Now … what else should I try it in?
- 1 large head cauliflower, cut into 1-inch florets
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 6 slices bacon
- ½ cup finely chopped red onion
- 2 tbsp finely chopped lovage
- 2 tbsp finely chopped Italian parsley
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp honey
- ½ tsp mustard powder
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- Heat oven to 425°F. Spread cauliflower in single layer on nonstick cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss well. Roast 15 minutes. Stir and then roast 5 to 10 minutes longer or until tender and golden brown.
- Meanwhile, in 10-inch skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove with slotted spoon to paper towel-lined plate.
- In large bowl, toss roasted cauliflower, bacon and onion. In small bowl, beat oil, vinegar, sugar, mustard and paprika with whisk until smooth. Pour dressing over cauliflower mixture; toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover; refrigerate at least 1 hour until chilled or overnight.