Under-appreciated vegetables: celery
It seems that celery is a problem for many of us who do single-serving cooking! I’ve seen comments to that effect in several cookbooks dedicated to cooking for one. One of my “things” to do with that head of celery is to make mirpoix or soffrito and stash it in the freezer so that I’ll have it to facilitate making a quick meal. That works, but you need only so much of that in the freezer and how many celery sticks can you munch on? Buying the precut celery stick is the produce department is NOT an option–they keep even less well than the whole head of celery. Admittedly, I like celery ribs stuffed with peanut butter and pimento cheese, but again, how many can you–or should you–eat? Or, buy it off the salad bar at the supermarket–but then you may not have it when you need it unless you’re willing to make a trip
One thing that I’ve found helpful is to store the celery in a partially open zipper-lock bag with a paper towel that’s been dampened and then squeezed as dry as possible. This extends the storage time, but still I end up tossing a lot of celery on the compost heap. There must be a better solution.
I think that perhaps the best solution to this is to recognize that celery is a vegetable with nutritional value and learn to use it as a vegetable and not just as a seasoning. Until I started this research I was not aware of many recipes treating celery as a vegetable on its own. (I’m not including its use in salads or as a snack, or even to add crunch to caponata.) I’ve been looking for more celery recipes.
My first stop was my favorite vegetable cookbook (note that I did not say vegetarian cookbook), The Victory Garden Cookbook (see bibliography). I was amazed at how many recipes were given for celery–I think that this goes to show my under-appreciation of celery! (Yes, I know it’s popular in stir-fries, too–but there’s a recipe for a stir-fry of celery as a veggie!)
There are recipes for braised celery (p. 79-80), celery slaw (p. 78), and salads (Celery Antipasto p. 78 and Celery Rice Salad, p. 78) as well as the expected Cream of Celery Soup (p. 81) I found a Chilled Celery-Lemon Soup (p. 81) that certainly looks intriguing as a way to use celery as a vegetable. There are other recipes here that look as if they have potential for celery as a vegetable. (At least go to the library and check this book out and try some of these.)
I went to Eat Your Books and ran a search on the books that I’ve added to my bookshelf. Turned out that there were lots of recipes for celeriac (later discussion), but I did not find many for simple stalk celery; here are a few of the ones that I did find:
- Celery à la Grecque (Céleri à la Grecque) from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume One by Julia Child and Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck.
- Braised celery stalks with onion, pancetta, and tomatoes from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan
- Braised and gratinéed celery stalks with Parmesan cheese from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan
- Risotto with celery from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan
If you feel like trying this approach to the celery crisis that often afflicts those of us who do single-serving cooking here is a starting point–all it really takes is a trip to the library! If you do an online search you need to search for “stalk celery”, “rib celery”, or “celery stalks” or you will probably get lots of recipes for “celeriac” or “celery root” which is a great vegetable, but likewise under-appreciated in American every-day cooking!
Another solution might be to search for recipes for Florence (bulb) fennel and substitute celery in some of those with possible changes of seasoning.
That is not a lot of recipes–I think that it likely reflects celery as seasoning, not as a vegetable, but I think well worth exploring. Have celery–I’m going to experiment. I’ll keep you posted!
A son goût!