Today's ugly food is celery root, or celeriac. I recently bought a few of them at Whole Foods, once again unable to resist the temptation to bring home something brown and disfigured.
Don't be fooled by its green tops: while it's certainly related to celery, this is not the base of a celery plant, but rather a vegetable grown exclusively for the tuber. Like any root vegetable, celeriac requires a bit of prep work. As for the peeling, it is a job best tackled with a paring knife (imagine that you were peeling a pineapple, and if you cut off a little it more flesh that you intended, just accept it and move on). Once you manage to scrape away at the knobby exterior, you'll find a rather pretty, off-white vegetable that can be cooked or eaten raw, with a taste that is most often described as a cross between celery and parsley. While I was tempted to boil my celery root and whip it into a buttery puree, I opted instead to grate it (something that I would not attempt without the help of a food processor or mandolin) and mix it with mayonnaise and spicy dijon mustard to create a crunchy celery remoulade, a popular side dish in France.
To make my celery remoulade, I followed Ina Garten's recipe, which you can find here on the Food Network website or in her cookbook Barefoot in Paris. Feel free to play around with the amount of mustard and lemon if you'd like (no real rules here), and if you're really feeling fancy, consider making your own homemade mayonnaise, which is much easier to do than you might imagine and well worth your time and effort.