You buy it for exactly one thing, use a stalk, toss the rest in your fridge. Weeks later, you open a drawer and find the lank green limbs, lifeless and sad, their potential wasted.
I am talking about celery, that crunchy bland vegetable we often take for granted.
It’s making headlines right now. More on that in a minute.
Celery is a crucial cooking tool. It’s one of three ingredients in mirepoix, a flavor base made up of diced vegetables that typically also includes carrots and onions. Closely related is the holy trinity of vegetables in Cajun cooking: onions, celery and bell peppers.
Celery recipes trend from time to time, like all good underdog foods — we’ve even featured some of those stories right here in the past year.
But recently, celery seems to be getting the respect it deserves as an important food — though not for the reasons you might expect.
On June 7, our book editor sent me a message: “No. 9 on this week’s nonfiction bestseller list” with a link to Amazon. Medical Medium Celery Juice: The Most Powerful Medicine of Our Time Healing Millions Worldwide Hardcover by Anthony William.
I had just started looking into the current state of celery after a tip from a Times staffer, who went to buy some at Publix and couldn’t find any. When she asked a clerk where all the celery was, they mentioned the California wildfires have contributed to a dwindling supply.
We reached out to Publix to confirm Florida’s celery pinch.
“The celery market has been extremely tight for several months,” said Brian West, spokesman for Publix. “Less acreage of total celery was planted this year, and a high-profile claim about drinking celery juice increased demand.”
Are people really juicing it daily?
William calls himself the Medical Medium, and while he doesn’t have medical training, he does have a handful of New York Times bestsellers. He is claiming celery juice can cure chronic diseases. Celebrities from Pharrell Williams to Goop queen Gwyneth Paltrow have jumped on the train, posting selfies with their green juices.
The Los Angeles Times published a story in May titled “How celery became the unlikely star of the produce aisle,” about how William’s celery advice has caused shortages all over the city.
William’s recipe for health is 16 ounces of organic celery juice every morning on an empty stomach. Juice the entire bunch of celery, wait 15 minutes before eating or drinking anything else, don’t put ice in the juice or add any other liquids to it.
That’s a lot of celery to consume each day. It wouldn’t take much time for one person to clear out a grocery store aisle.
“Fortunately, our suppliers have been able to meet the needs of our customers on conventional celery and celery hearts,” West said. “Organic celery has seen even greater impact. Supply has been nearly nonexistent, but it’s improving weekly. Celery sticks are grown using other conventional varieties, and we’ve had a steady supply of quality product.”That’s good, because celery is one of those ingredients that you don’t think about until you need it for a very specific purpose and you can’t find it.
In cooking, celery is an essential flavor source
“It’s often the neglected child of the food world,” said Lance Nitahara, an assistant professor at the Culinary Institute of America. “People don’t really think about it. But it’s super important in the world of aromatics.”
Standard aromatics include carrots, onions, garlic, shallots and leeks. Think of that mirepoix mixture, which is two parts onions, one part carrots and one part celery.
“We take mirepoix for granted,” Nitahara said. “But one time I had to make a dish without celery, and thought it would taste relatively the same, and the depth of flavor was completely lost. The dish tasted so flat.”
Celery’s true value is in that aromatic form, he said. Because it’s mostly water, if you held your nose and ate a piece, you wouldn’t taste much. But when all your senses are used to consume it, celery adds a specific aromatic note that can’t be replicated.
Celery can also stand on its own.
“It actually roasts really well,” Nitahara said.
Use a high heat, and know that it may take longer to roast than some other vegetables because its sugar content is quite low. Cheeses like feta and blue cheese pair nicely, as do pistachios.
And Nitahara also offered this pro tip: Peel your celery before eating it in its own dish.
Using a paring knife or peeler, peel away the stringy bits to reveal a tender flesh underneath.
“It’s a much better eating experience,” he said.
Here are some good ways to put celery to use in your kitchen.
Celery Salad With Blue Cheese and Walnuts
½ cup chopped walnuts
1 medium shallot, halved lengthwise, divided
2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
½ cup sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar, divided
⅓ cup olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
1 fennel bulb, core removed, very thinly sliced
6 to 8 celery stalks, very thinly sliced
4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
Toast walnuts in a large, dry skillet over medium heat until lightly browned and fragrant, about 5 minutes.
Finely chop 1 shallot half, then thinly slice the other half crosswise; set sliced shallot aside. Combine chopped shallot, mustard, sugar and ¼ cup vinegar in a resealable jar. Add oil and season with salt and pepper. Cover and shake to emulsify; set vinaigrette aside.
Toss reserved sliced shallot and remaining ¼ cup vinegar in a small bowl; let sit until shallots are softened, at least 30 minutes.
Just before serving, toss fennel, celery, blue cheese and toasted walnuts in a large bowl. Drain shallot and add to bowl. Drizzle with vinaigrette and toss to coat; season with salt and pepper.
Source: Adapted from Bon Appétit
Lemon Braised Celery With Hazelnuts
3 cups water
3 cups unsalted chicken stock
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
5 (1-inch) strips lemon rind
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 bay leaves
5 cups (1 ½-inch) pieces diagonally cut celery, veins removed
3 tablespoons toasted crushed hazelnuts
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
⅓ cup celery leaves
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Combine water, chicken stock, olive oil, lemon rind, lemon juice, salt and bay leaves in a large saucepan over high heat; bring to a boil.
Add diagonally cut celery to pan. Reduce heat; simmer 15 minutes or until very tender when tested with a sharp knife. Transfer celery to a serving plate using a slotted spoon.
Sprinkle evenly with crushed hazelnuts, 2 tablespoons olive oil, celery leaves, salt and pepper.
Source: Adapted from Cooking Light
Pan-Seared Salmon With Celery and Olives
⅔ cup raisins or currants
Generous pinch of saffron
4 salmon fillets (about 4 ounces each), skin on
About ½ cup olive oil
4 sticks celery, cut into ½-inch dice, leaves removed and reserved for garnish
¼ cup pine nuts, roughly chopped
8 large green olives, pitted and cut into ½-inch dice
⅓ cup parsley, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Cover the raisins or currants with boiling water and set aside to soak for 20 minutes. In a separate small bowl, mix 1 tablespoon of boiling water with the saffron and also leave for 20 minutes or longer.
Gently rub the salmon fillets with 2 teaspoons of the oil, ⅓ teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper. Set aside while you make the relish.
Add ⅓ cup olive oil to a large saute pan over high heat. Add the celery and pine nuts and fry for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the nuts begin to brown. (Watch carefully as they can burn quickly.) Turn off heat and stir in the olives, saffron and its water and a pinch of salt. Drain the raisins or currants and add them as well, along with the parsley, lemon zest and juice. Mix well and set aside.
In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add salmon fillets skin-side down and let cook for 3 minutes, until the skin is crisp. Reduce the heat to medium, flip the fillets over and cook 2 to 4 minutes more (depending on how much you like the salmon to be cooked).
Divide the salmon among four plates and serve with the warm relish spooned on top. Scatter reserved celery leaves (if using) and serve immediately.
Source: New York Times
Buttermilk Potato Salad With Celery
12 cups water
2 ½ pounds small red potatoes, cut into ⅛-inch-thick slices
2 cups cider vinegar
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
½ cup finely chopped green onions
½ cup light sour cream
¼ cup finely chopped fresh dill
¼ cup mayonnaise or Greek yogurt
1 ½ tablespoons grated shallots
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups thinly diagonally sliced celery
¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Bring water and potatoes to a boil in a large saucepan. Reduce heat; simmer 20 minutes. Add vinegar; simmer 10 to 15 minutes. Drain. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet; cool.
Combine buttermilk and next eight ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl. Stir in potatoes, breaking up slices slightly with a spoon. Stir in celery and pepper. Chill at least 1 hour.
Source: Adapted from Cooking Light