AUTHOR: Julia TITLE: The Other Pantry (Recipe: Celery Caesar) DATE: 11/06/2009 09:31:00 AM ----- BODY:

I planted celery this summer, not because I love celery as a side vegetable or even eaten as a snack with peanut butter (I’m allergic to nuts), but because it’s a staple in so many recipes. Celery is a key component in the French “mirepoix”, the mix of aromatic vegetables that give flavor to soups, broths and stews. The Chinese also add celery to stir-fries. And I regularly use a stalk or two in chicken or tuna salad.  I always have celery in the pantry -- whether it's the crisper drawer of the fridge or the garden outside.

But for all of celery’s uses, I never need more than a stalk or two at a time. With celery in the garden, I can cut off what I need without harming the plant. Instead of a buying whole head at the supermarket, and watching it wilt in the vegetable draw, I can preserve the plant through the entire summer. I bought 6 plants for about $2.50. And I still have 3 full heads.

Growing Celery
This is the third year I’ve grown celery, and by far this was the most successful. As an experiment, I planted 3 seedlings in the garden and 3 in a planter box on the deck. Neither reached “supermarket” size, but the plants on the deck were decidedly smaller and slightly anemic despite the extra sun in its location.

The celery in the garden had proper spacing… at least 18 inches between plants. They grew larger than any other year… and height-wise, they looked good. The ribs were thin with brown streaks. I attribute the brown stalks to the excess rain we had this summer. Also the celery was not in a particularly sunny spot, which probably contributed to its stunted growth.

When I harvested a plant this morning it looked like 10 small heads had sprouted from the one plant. I wonder if I should have harvested a “mini-head” at a time instead of a stalk at a time. I’ll have to experiment with that next year.


In the meantime, winter is looming. We’ve already had our first snow-fall, and who knows when we’ll get the next. I’ve become more aggressive about using celery, not just as an aromatic in cooking but as a featured ingredient.

Buried deep in my files of recipes, I found a recipe for “Celery Caesar” from Daniele Baliani, a chef I knew in Boston a long time ago…


A Very Celery Caesar… Shavings of Pecorino and Celery Dressing
adapted from Daniele Baliani

Salad
4 large stalks of celery, sliced thin
2 cups of mixed lettuce leaves – including romaine, arugula and/or mesclun mix
1 small bulb of celeriac, peeled, julienned and blanched
¼ cup grated Pecorino Romano
salt and pepper to taste

Dressing
2 stalks celery
½ bunch parsley
½ bunch basil
3 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
½ lemon, juiced
¼ cup warm water
1 tbs. fresh chopped garlic
1 tbs. Dijon mustard
6 inner hearts of celery with the leaves
2 oz. Pecorino shavings
4 slices white bread for croutons

1. Heat a large pot of water to a boil. Season with salt. While waiting for the water to boil, set aside an ice bath. When the water boils, Add from the dressing ingredient list the celery, parsley and basil. Cook for 30 seconds, remove from heat, and soak in an ice water bath to stop the cooking. Drain well.

2. To make the dressing: place the blanched celery, parsley, basil, olive oil, water garlic, mustard and lemon juice in a blender. Over medium speed, puree until smooth and bright green.

3. In a large salad bowl, combine the thin slices of celery, lettuces and julienne of celeriac. Add the grated Pecorino and toss the dressing. Adjust seasoning.

4. Cut the white bread into triangles and brush with a little oil and Pecorino and bake at 350 for 15 minutes or until crispy and nutty brown.

5. To assemble: Divide the salad onto small plates and garnish with croutons. Top it all off with dressed celery leaves and drizzle more of the green dressing for a dramatic finish








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----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types DATE:11/06/2009 12:34:00 PM How great to have celery "for the picking" right in the garden! I, too, struggle with the fact that it adds a nice crunch to so many recipes, but when you buy it at the supermarket most of it goes to waste. I like the option for one stalk at a time. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger My Chef Regina DATE:11/06/2009 09:29:00 PM I want to try celery in the garden. I never see it at the local farmers market (not a very adventurous one), and wonder if it's fussy to grow in this area. I'm in Maryland ... do you know if your friends at Even' Star grow it? ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) DATE:11/06/2009 10:08:00 PM Because celery has such a high water content, it's hard to find a way to preserve it, other than making and freezing celery soup. I'm sure I compost as much celery as I actually use; it often goes bad in the crisper drawer after I've taken the first few stalks off. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Julia DATE:11/07/2009 06:56:00 AM T.W. -- Sometimes I see individual stalks of celery available at the market...

Regina -- I don't think it's fussy, but I also don't think Brett grows it. Alas, it doesn't have the same market-appeal as basil or tomatoes.

Lydia -- I like the idea of freezing celery juice, but to T.W.'s point, part of the appeal of celery is the crunch.

You give me an idea -- I wonder if I can freeze celery packed in water/ice. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger adele DATE:11/07/2009 11:01:00 PM I don't particularly like celery as anything but a seasoning (can't stand it in stir-fry, much to my mother's dismay), but this sounds pretty good! ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Heather DATE:11/07/2009 11:14:00 PM i don't love celery's taste, but i do love it's crunch. it's such a nice addition to so many things - including this recipe. mmm :) ----- --------