Celery — A Silent Superstar


Once when I had no celery in the refrigerator, I went ahead and made chicken soup without it. What a mistake!

“Something is missing,” my husband said, after one spoonful. “This soup is really bland.”
Until then, I never realized how much flavor celery packs into recipes. Because this ubiquitous vegetable is an inexpensive kitchen staple, it gets no respect.

Aside from cream of celery soup, these fibrous stalks are rarely the banner ingredient in recipes bearing its name. Sadly, celery often plays a supporting role in salads or is relegated to veggie juices and crudité platters. Celery is hardly noticed when dipped into hummus or other spreads. Then there is mirepoix, a medley of diced carrots, onions, and celery used as a flavor starter in sauces, soups and stews.

While celery doesn’t steal the spotlight, its assertive flavor makes the difference between dull and delicious. Some foods made without these refreshing stalks lack spirit and crunch. Think where tuna fish sandwiches would be without celery’s spark. Can you imagine potato salad minus the celery?

Even more insulting to celery, many people purchase these fragrant green stalks to prepare a soup or salad and then forget about them, until the stalks turn wimpy. Don’t let that bag of celery languish in the back of your refrigerator. Like a racehorse at the gate, celery is raring to get out and perform miracles in recipes.

Winter Arugula Salad | Pareve
Serves 6

⅓ cup chopped walnuts
2 bunches arugula
A dozen paper towels
1 (8-ounce package) sliced mushrooms
5 stalks of celery
¼ cup dried cranberries or raisins
1 teaspoon parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon sesame oil
⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
Kosher salt to taste

Preheat your toaster oven or oven to 350 degrees F. Line a small roasting pan with aluminum foil. Roast the walnuts for 1-2 minutes. Watch closely as walnuts burn easily. Cool to room temperature. Reserve.

Cut off the arugula stems and discard. Rinse the leaves well under water and gently shake to get rid of as much water as possible. Spread them on a layer of paper towels. Place another layer of paper towels over the arugula. Shake the paper towels, encouraging more moisture to dissipate. Place the watercress on dry paper towels to continue drying. Reserve.

Rinse the mushrooms under cold water and place them on dry paper towels. Rinse the celery under cold water. Scrape it with a vegetable peeler to rid the stalks of fibrous strands. Slice the celery on the thin side. Cut large slices in half. Place them on a dry paper towel.

Move the walnuts, arugula, mushrooms, celery, cranberries or raisins, and parsley into an attractive bowl. Drizzle on the lemon juice and sesame oil, using more if needed. Sprinkle on the garlic powder and salt. Gently toss until the ingredients are well coated and serve immediately.

Newish Chicken Soup | Meat
Serves 6

6 bone-in chicken thighs with or without skin
6 celery stalks
6 carrots
1 parsnip
2 sweet potatoes
1½ inches fresh ginger
1 onion
2 tablespoons dill, minced
Pepper to taste
Kosher salt to taste
3 chicken bouillon cubes

Rinse the chicken under cold water and drain it on paper towels.

Scrape the celery, carrots and parsnip with a vegetable peeler. Rinse under cold water and dice. Scrape the skin off the sweet potatoes and cut them into ½-inch chunks. Scrape the skin off the ginger and dice it finely. Peel the onion and dice it.

Place all of the ingredients in a stock pot or a large pot. Fill the pot with cold water until it covers the ingredients by 2 inches. Cover the pot and place it on a high flame. Once the water comes to a fast boil, reduce the flame to medium. If the water is boiling too quickly, add more and lower the flame. Simmer for 90 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

Using a slotted spoon, lift the chicken thighs from the soup. Cool to warm. Discard the skin.

Strip the chicken off the bones, cut it into bite-sized pieces and return the chicken to the soup.

Serve immediately, if desired. The soup can be cooled to room temperature and refrigerated for up to three days.

Tuscan Tomato Sauce | Pareve or dairy
Serves 4-6

5 celery stalks
5 carrots
1 onion
2 tablespoons olive oil,
or more if needed
Kosher salt to taste

With a vegetable peeler, scrape the celery and carrots. Rinse under cold water and dry on paper towels. Peel the onion. Dice the celery, carrots and onion finely. Into a large pot, drizzle the olive oil and heat on a medium-low flame. Move the celery, carrots and onion to the pot and sprinkle with salt. Stir often. When the vegetables are sweating and fragrant, remove the pot from the flame. Reserve.

Tomato Sauce:
5 Italian plum tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ teaspoon dried basil or 2 teaspoons fresh basil, chopped finely
Kosher salt to taste
28-ounce can tomato sauce
3 ounces of tomato paste
¼ cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons water
1 pound of pasta, any kind
Optional: grated Parmesan cheese

Dice the tomatoes and add them, including their juice, to the mirepoix. Turn the flame to medium, and stir until coated. Add the basil and only a sprinkle of salt. Sauté the contents of the pot. Add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, wine and water. Stir to combine. Cover the pot.

When the sauce comes to a fast simmer, lower the flame so the sauce cooks on a slow simmer. Check the salt and add a little more, if needed. After 30 minutes, remove the pot’s cover and simmer on a low flame for an hour. If the sauce seems too watery, continue simmering it until it thickens.

Serve the sauce immediately with pasta and plenty of grated Parmesan, if using. If not serving immediately, the sauce can be refrigerated for up to three days or frozen. T


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