In order for me to tell you about “Apio”, pronounced (ä’ pē-ō), I must tell you about my long journey to find it. This post is 5-6 years in the making, and one of the reasons I started this blog!
When I was a kid, I used to eat Apio in various different Venezuelan dishes. At my grandmother’s house they usually served a little bit of Apio Cream (just a thicker creamier soup), as an appetizer before lunch. My mom sometimes served Apio Creamy Soup as a light dinner. Apio could be found in big pieces, like you would find carrots or potatoes in a light chicken soup preparation. My other grandmother used it in her preparation of Sancocho de Pescado (like a fish stew of some sort), in big chunks. We also ate it in Chupe de Gallina, another chicken soup, but very hearty. I also recall it served as a pure (like mashed potatoes, but of Apio), in some fancy restaurants. So it’s safe to say, I loved Apio!
Fast-forward a few years… and all of a sudden… I forgot about Apio! I moved to the US, where nobody knows about Apio, and I guess it just slipped my mind. Until, I had a crazy craving for some delicious Apio Soup. So I ask myself, what is apio in English? What does Apio translate to? I “Googled it”. As it turns out, apio means celery. Simple enough. All I have to find is Creamy Celery Soup. Guess what? Campbell’s makes Cream of Celery, so I should probably just go buy one at the store. So I did. I came home with my can of soup, and I cooked it on the stove, and was a bit puzzled about the green color, but hey, the can says Cream of Celery, so it must be right… I try it… YUCK!!!! This isn’t APIO!!!! Of course NOT! Dummy!!!
I go back to the drawing board… Google, that is. Oh, of course! Apio IS celery, yes, but that is what we in Venezuela call “Apio españa”, Spanish (from Spain) Apio. Ok, my bad! Now I realize I am looking for something else. I call my mom, my aunt, my cousin, my sister, my grandma, my other grandma, and pretty much everyone I know to ask about Apio. I had never seen the raw product, I only saw the cooked product, and so I didn’t know what it was supposed to look like. The general description was “It looks like a potato, but more like a stick of carrot, and with weird limbs coming out of it, like ginger, but it is yellow on the inside”. WHAT? So I begin my search for this Apio. I bought something that sort of matched the description of what they told me, which was called Parsnip. I went home and cooked it. It wasn’t it. I bought Turnip. That wasn’t it either. Finally, after researching all over the Internet, I find out what it was. It is called Celery Root here in America. But guess what? They don’t sell it anywhere. So I asked around all the markets I could find, until I finally found “Celery Root” at a new organic market that had opened up. YES! Finally I get to make my Apio Soup. I buy it, I send pictures to everyone to make sure it is the right one, and they said it was. I make the soup, IT’S NOT IT!!! At least it didn’t taste like it to me, and it wasn’t really yellow, it was more like beige.
I came down to South Florida to visit my family and I asked for my cousin to cook me some Apio. We went to the local Hispanic Super Market, where they sold Celery Root, BUT it was labeled “Celery Root: Apio Venezolano”. So I knew it HAD to be the right thing. And of course, my cousin cooked it for me, and it WAS the right kind of Apio. But then I knew I could only find it either in South Florida or in Venezuela.
Now here I am, after 5 years, back in Florida. Of course, my first post HAS to be about Apio, because I went to the Hispanic Market called Sedano’s and I found my “Apio Venezolano”. I bought it, I brought it home, I peeled it (it was yellow, how it’s supposed to be), then I cooked it, it smelled like apio, then I tasted it, and… IT WAS APIO!!!
So, I know only a few of you, those lucky enough to find the real Apio Venezolano, are going to be able to make this recipe. However, I must say the Parsnip version was pretty close to it. Also, this recipe is good for any kind of tuber vegetable or almost any vegetable for that matter.
What you need:
- 500 grams of Apio Venezolano (about 2 to 3 big pieces)
- 4 ¼ cups of Chicken Broth
- Queso Blanco (Yet another hard to find ingredient)
- 2 tbsp. butter
- ¼ Onion
- Cream Cheese
1. Peel the Apio. Use a knife first for the tougher parts, and then you can use a regular potato peeler for the rest.
2. Cut the Apio in half, so that it fits in the pot and the water covers it. This step is optional.
3. Cook the Apio and the Chicken Broth in high heat for about 25 minutes, or until the Apio is soft. Just like you would if you where boiling potatoes.
4. At this point you can add the optional ingredients for extra flavor, such as the onion (in big pieces so its easy to remove later), the cilantro, the basil and the leeks.
5. Once the Apio is done, remove the optional ingredients (or you can leave them if you wish), and remove the Apio from the broth.
6. Puree the Apio using a food processor (and optional ingredients if you wish), and then slowly add the stock little by little until you reach the desired consistency. This is supposed to be a “cream of apio” soup, but if you puree the apio first, and then add the broth bit by bit, mixing well, you can stop adding broth when you have reached the desired consistency, so you don’t have a soup that is too thick or too thin. You can also add the optional butter here to help it reach the desired consistency.
7. Return the mixture to the pot and cook on low heat for another 10 minutes or so. You can add the remaining broth if it starts to thicken too much.
8. Serve with optional cubes of Queso Blanco, or toast, or Cream Cheese, or all three. I myself like to have the cream cheese on the table and just scoop some into my soup and eat a little piece with each spoonful. Delicious!
Just for reference of what apio ISN’T, here are the pictures of the first attempt of Celery Root bought at a local organic market. NOT Venezuelan Apio for sure!
More on Apio
Other names I have found for Venezuelan Apio include Celeriac and Arracacha, but I haven’t confirmed these myself.
Also, Apio could be a good substitute for Potatoes in all kinds of preparations, because it has less calories (nutritional facts coming soon).