Adoration for stuffed vegetables cuts across religious and ethnic boundaries and is shared by all residents of Jerusalem. The technique of stuffing vegetables — a labor-intensive art requiring skilled hands — was once the domain of special occasions and holidays. Today, one can buy stuffed vegetables locally, though some continue the tradition of making them at home.
A note on leftovers: If you have extra filling, try stuffing kohlrabi halves or parboiled potatoes. For the scooped out bits of celery root, finely chop it and add it to the meat mixture or cook down with other root vegetables for a puree that pairs well with meat.
- 4 medium-sized celery roots
- For the stuffing:
- 4 tablespoons, neutral oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 lb / ½ kg ground beef
- 1 egg, beaten
- For the sauce:
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 4 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
- ⅓ cup water
- 4 tablespoons neutral oil
- Make the stuffing: Heat the oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and dill and saute for 5 minutes, until the onion is softened and translucent. Add the salt, pepper, and cinnamon and stir. Add the beef and mix well. Saute for 5 to 10 more minutes, while stirring and breaking down the beef with a wooden spoon, until the beef is cooked and separated into coarse crumb-like pieces. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and set aside to cool.
- Once the stuffing mixture is at room temperature, add the beaten eggs and stir well. Set aside.
- Peel the celery roots, cut them in half and scoop out most of the meat to create a bowl-like shape in each celery root half (it’s best to use a sharp circular tool like a melon baller for this step). If the celery roots are too tough, you can parboil them in a large pot of boiling water until they are just tender. Place a generous amount of filling into the cavity of each celery root to create a small mound on top.
- Prepare the sauce and cook the celery roots: Place all the ingredients for the sauce into a small pot over medium-heat and stir. Heat it until it reaches a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer. Gently place the stuffed celery roots into the sauce, stuffing side up. Cover the pot and cook for 1 hour until the celery roots are tender and their bottoms have browned. While the celery roots are cooking, occasionally peak into the pot and add ¼ cup of water if needed to keep the sauce from burning. About 10 minutes before the celery root is done, most of the liquid will be reduced, at this point do not add any more water. After 1 hour of cooking, check to see that the celery root is tender and the bottoms have caramelized and are not burnt.
- Serve the stuffed celery root hot. This dish does not store well, so it’s best to eat it fresh.