The disappearing vegetable

Celery cuisine

April 11, 2011

I buy celery every week. Always have, and probably always will.

“But where does it go?” my husband once asked. “I never really see it.”

And I realized he was right. It did get used, but how? Certainly not in a way that was front and center. I myself was mystified.

But it’s not that mystifying. I use it in mirepoix several times a week, and when I do, I usually snack on a branch or two. The leaves make a special treat for our finches, or they go into salads. There may be one or two gnarly stalks that go into the compost at week’s end, but that’s about it. Celery Victor? I never make it.

Celery salad.

You can cook celery — braising is an especially suitable method, and I intend to explore that in depth one day — but with the early-spring weather, I’m in the mood for the crispy crunch of a celery salad, which is good because my lettuces are still in seed form or close to it.

There are a great many delicacies popping up in my garden that I’m dying to use, but can do so only in small amounts without depleting them: Lovage leaves. Orach. Tarragon. Carrot tops. Vigorous-looking clumps of parsley. Chives. Mâche.

Celery, it turns out, is the perfect foil for these treasures.

So celery salad it is, and now I’m buying two bunches a week! I’ve become quite fond of this very quick-to-make, ever-changing salad, and it does make celery a much more visible vegetable.

Celery Salad with the First Spring Herbs

1 shallot, finely diced
Zest of 1 Meyer lemon
1 1/2 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice
¼ tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. walnut oil
2 Tbsp. olive oil

3 cups (approximately) thinly sliced celery stalks (peel any rough-looking stalks first)
Finely chopped herbs, including the celery leaves, parsley, lovage, carrot tops, and chives
Orach sprigs, if you have them
⅓ cup freshly cracked and chopped walnuts
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Several handfuls of mâche

Combine the shallot, zest, lemon juice, and salt in a bowl, and let stand 10 minutes. Whisk in the oils. Taste for salt and add more if you wish.

Toss the sliced celery with the herbs, walnuts, and a few pinches of sea salt, then with enough of the dressing to moisten well. Taste for salt and season with pepper.

Loosely line a bowl with the mâche and add the celery. Spoon a little dressing over the mâche leaves, and toss at the table.

You could also include thinly sliced fennel, or finish with hard-cooked eggs, chopped and tossed with the celery, or quartered and served on the side.

If mâche isn’t available, choose another green, such as chopped white or pink endive, slivered radicchio, slivered romaine leaves, or frisée.

Include boiled, sliced, or diced yellow-fleshed potatoes or celeriac if you like. But hold the mayo!

Deborah Madison is the author of numerous award-winning cookbooks, including Local Flavors. She lives in New Mexico.

Related recipe: Celery Salad with the First Spring Herbs

There are 10 comments on this item
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1. by CJMcD on Apr 13, 2011 at 7:11 AM PDT

I use a lot of celery too. I love making simple soups and celery is high on the list of ingredients. Salads too. I love the crunch that celery adds.

2. by Cathy Elton on Apr 13, 2011 at 1:15 PM PDT

I never think of making celery salads, but now I most certainly will! Thank you for this recipe.

3. by Deborah Madison on Apr 13, 2011 at 2:22 PM PDT

Cathy - if you’re like me (and I didn’t think of it either) you might find yourself
making them all the time. The variations on the recipe above are endless.

4. by debra daniels-zeller on Apr 14, 2011 at 8:04 AM PDT

I never thought of making an entire salad out of celery. I can’t wait to try it. One year I discovered that just 4 stalks of celery a day will lower your blood pressure; it worked and I haven’t stopped eating it since. Thanks or this great ode to celery.

5. by Deborah Madison on Apr 14, 2011 at 8:17 AM PDT

Debra - always a pleasure to hear from you! I didn’t know that about the 4 stalks of celery a day lowering blood pressure —I’m gong to pass that valuable tidbit on to some who would love to know that.

6. by wendypchef on Apr 30, 2011 at 8:24 AM PDT

Thanks for the ideas! I usually buy a bunch to use in a recipe and then all but a few stalks rot in the refrigerator.

7. by Deborah Madison on May 3, 2011 at 12:10 PM PDT

Ah Wendy, don’t we all! I just put some limp browned stalks in the compost - they didn’t wait for me while I was gone for a week!

8. by bit on May 6, 2011 at 6:20 AM PDT

If you have a garden, put the base of your store-bought celery in the dirt, and in a few weeks you’ll have a whole new celery! Save a bit of money, but also you won’t have to feel bad about throwing away those last bits that don’t get eaten.

9. by Deborah Madison on May 6, 2011 at 8:13 AM PDT

Thank you for this great tip! I’m going to do that right now.

10. by anonymous on May 10, 2011 at 10:12 AM PDT

I’ve heard that if you wrap celery in tinfoil in your fridge, it keeps longer. Haven’t tried it yet myself.

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Local Flavors

Deborah Madison, the celebrated cookbook author and local-food advocate, feeds us with her occasional reflections. Her latest book is Vegetable Literacy.

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