Give Celery a Chance
Celery is often an unglamorous workhorse in crudité platters, vegetable soups and green juices, but it can take on a starring role, if only given the chance. Classics like celery gratin and Waldorf salad are back in fashion, and dishes like the Celery Victor (a chilled marinated-celery salad) at San Francisco’s Cockscomb have gained cult status.
Just the Facts
✦ Ancient Romans used celery as an aphrodisiac.
✦ The Guinness World Record for the heaviest head of celery is 75 pounds.
✦ Celery Victor was invented at San Francisco’s St. Francis Hotel in 1910.
✦ Celery leaves were included in garlands found in King Tut’s tomb.
✦ Hippocrates described celery as a nerve soother, and in its 1897 catalog, Sears Roebuck Co. featured a celery nerve tonic.
✦ “I’m afraid of losing my obscurity. Genuineness only thrives in the dark, like celery.” –Aldous Huxley
Some favorite celery snacks can be reinvented as terrific entrées. If you loved it with peanut butter as a kid, try stir-fried celery with Thai peanut sauce. Do you enjoy the celery sticks and blue cheese dip that come with Buffalo wings? A chopped celery salad topped with crumbled blue cheese and spicy grilled chicken breast offers similar taste and crunch.
“We work with all different forms of celery,” says Kate Jacoby, co-owner of Philadelphia’s vegan restaurant Vedge. “We pickle crunchy wedges for garnishing cocktails, grill the hearts, fold chopped leaves into vinaigrettes, even cook the stalks down into a syrup to churn into a salty-sweet sorbet.”
Delicious raw or cooked, celery’s versatility means there’s no shortage of complementary wines. “For fresh, raw uses of celery, I would keep it classic, with a bright, snappy Grüner Veltliner or dry Riesling,” says Jacoby, who oversees Vedge’s extensive wine list. “If grilled or braised, coaxing out its deeper flavors, I would lean toward a high-acid Loire red like a funky Cabernet Franc or juicy Grolleau.”
Adapted from A Boat, A Whale & A Walrus, by Renee Erickson with Jess Thomson (Sasquatch Books, 2014)
“Once you get past its intimidating appearance, celery root is lovely, with a delicious, green vegetal flavor that’s hard to come by in the dead of winter,” says Erickson, a Seattle-based chef and James Beard Award winner. This salad takes advantage of the funky, salty-sour flavor of preserved lemon to give the creamy dressing its complexity. Note: If your celery stalks don’t yield enough leaves, you can use flat-leaf parsley.
- Preserved lemon vinaigrette (recipe below)
- 1 pound celery root
- ½ cup toasted walnuts, divided
- ½ cup celery leaves (picked from regular celery stalks)
- 1 teaspoon poppy seeds
- 5 tablespoons pomegranate seeds
- Extra-virgin olive oil, for finishing
- Flaky sea salt (like Maldon or Jacobsen), for finishing
Prepare vinaigrette. Transfer to large bowl. Using sharp knife, peel celery root. Shave as thinly as possible, using a knife or mandolin. Add root shavings to vinaigrette as you slice to prevent browning. Make sure each piece has dressing and spread slice apart evenly in the bowl if clumping occurs. When celery root has been thoroughly dressed, stir in ⅜ cup walnuts. Crush walnuts slightly with hands while adding to bowl.
Transfer mixture to platter. Top with the remaining walnuts, celery leaves, poppy seed, and pomegranate seeds. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with sea salt. Serve at room temperature. Serves 4.
- Peel of 1 preserved lemon, julienned*
- ½ cup crème fraîche
- 1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon minced shallot
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
In blender or food processor, purée peel, crème fraîche, juice and shallot. While food processor is running, add olive oil in slow, steady stream until smooth and creamy. Salt to taste.
*Preserved lemon is widely available in specialty stores and Middle Eastern groceries
This racy white wine offers lemon zest, sage, saline and nutty notes that echo the preserved lemon, celery leaf and walnut in the salad. Vibrant acidity brings out the sweeter side of the celery root and pomegranate seeds.
These Indian-inspired pancakes work equally well for breakfast, lunch or a light dinner. The raita recipe swaps traditional cucumber for celery, which further highlights the vegetable’s crunchy appeal.
- 1 cup chickpea flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
- 2 scallions, minced
- 1 cup fine-diced celery
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Celery raita (recipe below), for serving
Whisk first six ingredients in bowl. Add 1 cup water, and whisk until very smooth. Cover with dish towel and set aside 1 hour. Whisk in scallions and celery.
Heat griddle or nonstick pan over medium heat, and coat lightly with olive oil. Make pancakes about 5 inches in diameter. Cook until golden brown, 2–3 minutes per side. Serve warm, with raita. Serves 2.
- 1 cup Greek yogurt
- ½ cup fine-minced celery
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
In bowl, beat yogurt with fork until smooth. Stir in all remaining ingredients until well incorporated.
Grüner Veltliner is a classic choice with Indian food, and its crisp herbal freshness is a natural with celery as well. This wine features notes of arugula and lovage, an herb that tastes of celery inflected with piquant lime zest. The result is a spicy and irresistibly refreshing wine that will pair harmoniously with the dish.
- 1Celery Root and Celery Leaf Salad
- 2Celery Chickpea Pancakes with Raita