Humble Ingredient: Celery
Celery has gotten a bad rap over the years and it’s not fair. It seems to always get chopped up where it acts as a supporting player, never getting the spotlight all to itself. Part of the problem in the States is that it is hard to find anything but the supermarket variety of celery: apium plasticbagus, which is crunchy but not all that flavorful.
We grow celery in our orto that has skinny, tough, fibrous stalks, but it is full of flavor. It’s too tough to just crunch on, so it needs to be finely chopped before use, but it adds a true celery zing to whatever you are cooking. The Umbrian city of Trevi celebrates their particular ‘black celery’ with its own fall festa; this ‘sedano nero’ is actually an IGP product meaning that it can only be grown in the Trevi area. It’s time we had some choice in our celery!
What else can you do with celery, besides leaving it undiscovered in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator until it turns to mush? Celery makes a great soup base either pureed or as a clear consume'.
But, here is today’s’ 5-minute celery secret: it makes a great salad all on its own. Just finely slice the celery and add a little vinaigrette and you are good to go. Make a blue cheese dressing and you’ve got a variation on the classic 1950’s appetizer: celery stalk with cheese stuffing (cream cheese, blue cheese, peanut butter, Chez Whiz…mmmm….). It’s a nice change from a leafy green salad and particularly good when you might want a little extra crunch.
Want to serve celery soup, but think it sounds too plain? Just call it cream of apium graveolens and everybody will think you have just discovered the latest chic ingredient!
Agree that celery is too often overlooked in this country. How about braised celery hearts?
At our farmer’s market, when celery is in season, it’s much more like the celery you describe, at least in its intense flavor.
Have you ever made the Sardinian celery salad with bottarga?