Don’t Underestimate Celery: By Polly Fossey
Don’t underestimate celery. It has serious flavor, texture and versatility. This is because celery is comprised of three very different components: the stalk, the leaves and the root. All celery is beautiful, but Chinese Celery in particular is something to be celebrated.
First off, don’t disparage celery foliage and certainly don’t throw it away! At my last restaurant apprenticeship at Tilda All Day in Clinton Hill, I was taught to carefully pick the leafy branches from a bunch of celery. These would be revived in a little ice water as you would any delicate herb. Then, the leaves would be lightly dressed in oil and vinegar and used as a delicious garnish for fish. Chinese Celery has verdant, feathery leaves interspersed with clusters of little flowers. This makes for an especially eye catching garnish and a wonderful addition to salad. The slight bitterness works great when balanced with something fatty and sweet such as bacon-honey vinaigrette. The leafy greens can also be wilted down as you would any bitter green. I would suggest wilting them in good duck fat and pairing them with the ugliest heirloom tomatoes you can find.
Chinese celery has thin hollow stalks that can be cut into lovely bias rings. Either raw or pickled, these rings add visual interest, flavor and crunch to salads. You can also use Chinese celery stalk with scallion and carrot for an Asian version of the classic mirepoix.
Lastly, don’t toss out your tiny Chinese Celery roots! The root of Chinese Celery may not be as massive as the traditional celery root bulb (I usually I use those big gnarly roots in pureed soups, ravioli filling and mashed potatoes), but they still make a great addition to vegetable broth where they will impart a subtle, earthy undertone.
So please, I urge you to look past the sad truncated supermarket celery and experience celery’s true culinary potential.