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Considering Celery

June 06, 2011 | Tags: Deborah Madison , Food , Vegetables | Post comment

Considering Celery


 “You always buy it, but where does it go?” my husband asks. “I never really see it in a dish.” And he was right – until lately.

You can cook celery – in makes a great winter braise or gratin and it makes very good soups, but now the crispy crunch of a celery salad might be just the thing for hot weather. It’s very fast to make, one nearly always has celery around or can easily do so, and celery is tremendously versatile.  A celery salad can incorporate small amounts of special things –herbs like parsley, cilantro, chives, minced carrot tops, tarragon, purslane and orach leaves should such things appear in your farmers market or back yard. Also arugula, green olives, crumbly blue cheese or ricotta salata. So celery salad it is. I’ve become quite fond of this quick to make, ever-changing salad and it does make celery a much more visible vegetable. And it’s one you can easily take to work for lunch, as it doesn’t wilt the way salad greens do.

Celery Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette               

The vinaigrette
1 shallot or a few scallions, finely diced
Grated zest and 1 1/2  tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons olive oil

The salad
Celery stalks, thinly sliced to yield about 3 cups
Several tablespoons chopped herbs, such as celery leaves, parsley, lovage, carrot tops, chives
1/3 cup freshly cracked walnuts, coarsely chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Several handfuls of greens, such as mache, arugula, or small spinach leaves

Combine shallot, zest, lemon juice and salt in a bowl and let stand ten minutes. Whisk in the oil. Taste for salt and add more if you wish.

Peel any celery stalks that look on the rough side, then slice all thinly, otherwise they’ll be very chewy. Toss with the herbs, walnuts and a few pinches sea salt, then with enough of the dressing to moisten well. Taste for salt and season with pepper.
Loosely line a bowl with the greens, and add the celery, spoon a little dressing over the greens and toss everything at the table.

Serves 4

Include thinly sliced fennel in place of the celery
Include boiled, sliced or diced yellow-fleshed potatoes, but hold the mayo!
Include green olives (the kind stuffed with pimentos), sliced, and slivers of ricotta salata
Keep this in mind for fall:  include thinly sliced apples or pears and crumbles of blue cheese