I love the strong, savory herbaceousness of celery. Celery root is a wonderful vegetable in its own right. It’s great for roasting, gratins, or in soup. The bold flavor of the root can more than hold its own with the toasted spices in this soup. The bacon provides salty contrast and the honey mellows and ties it all together. Looking for an elegant starter soup for a holiday dinner that’s a little out of the ordinary? This might be it. Spiced Celery Root Soup with Bacon and Honey serves 4 1/2 teaspoon whole coriander 1/4 teaspoon whole cumin 1/4 teaspoon whole fennel 1/2 teaspoon whole black pepper Seeds from three cardamom pods 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon cayenne Pinch clove 2 tablespoons butter 1 tablespoon olive oil 1 medium yellow onion, sliced 1 clove garlic, finely chopped 1/4 cup flour 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth 1 1/2 pounds celery root, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces (save the stems and leaves if attached) 1/2-3/4 pound potatoes (about 2 small or 1 medium) peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces 1/4 cup chopped celery stems and leaves 1 cup milk Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste Garnish: Crisp fried diced bacon Good quality honey In a small, dry skillet, toast the whole spices until fragrant, watching closely so they do not burn. Cool spices and grind with a mortar and pestle or in an electric coffee or spice grinder. Add the ground cinnamon, cayenne and clove. Set aside. In a soup pot, over medium high heat, warm the butter and olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until vegetables are soft and fragrant. Add the flour and cook, stirring, until the flour begins to lose its raw smell (about 3-4 minutes). Add the broth, celery root, potatoes and celery stems and leaves. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer until vegetables are tender (about 45 minutes). Cool the soup, puree until smooth in a blender of food processor. Return to the pot and add milk. Heat soup all the way through, adding salt and pepper to taste. Garnish each serving with bacon and a drizzle of honey.