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Celery

by Louise Fiszer & Jeannette Ferrary

No one knows if it's true, as the Dutch gynecologist Van de Velde says in his book, Ideal Marriage, that celery is an effective aphrodisiac. Nor does anyone know if celery offers protection from hangovers, as the Roman contended. It may be possible, or so thought many medieval magicians, that a few celery seeds placed in the shoes can help a person fly. True or not, rumors of celery power have been convincing enough to win the vegetable a prominent place on the crowns and crests of royalty. The Greeks used celery as a seasoning, the ancient Romans made a dessert from it and sixteenth century Europeans employed it, seeds, leaves and all, as a food, flavoring and medicine.

In this country, our ancestors ate so much of this vegetable that a French observer noted that Americans nibble celery from the beginning to the end of their repasts.

In Denmark this vegetable is used as the base of a rich blue-cheese soup. The famous Waldorf salad is essentially celery and apples in equal parts. Just about any salad profits from the vibrant crunch of celery, and soup stocks develop instant personality with the inclusion of its frilly leaves.

Despite a bland exterior, celery is rich with potential. Because of its year-round availability, it is always easy to serve as a side-dish vegetable, salad, or aromatic, and its presence is always more than subtle. It may not be the kind of food that you dream of or rhapsodize about; rather it's the stuff of long-term relationships -- more like a pal than a paramour.

Consumer and Cooking Guide

Market Selection
The most common variety is Pascal. A newcomer to the green grocer's shelf is a red celery called Violet de Tours, which turns green when cooked. Stalks should be rigidly crisp and leaves fresh-looking.

Availability
Year-round.

Storage: Wrap in paper towels and store in plastic bag in refrigerator up to 1 week.

Flavor Enhancers
Oregano, thyme, bay leaf, parsley, caper.

Equivalents: 1 stalk = 1 cup, sliced or chopped

Nutritional Value: Good source of Vitamins A, B, C, and E.
8 calories per cup.

Baked Barley with Red Onions and Celery
serves 6 to 8

4 tablespoons oil or butter
1 large red onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
2 cups pearl barley
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
3 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup white wine
salt and pepper
1/2 cup chopped chives

Preheat the oven to 350ÉF.
In a flameproof oven casserole, heat the oil. Cook the onion and celery until soft, about 6 minutes. Stir in the barley and cook about 3 minutes. Add the oregano, stock, and wine and bring to a boil. Cover the casserole and place in the oven. Bake for 45 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed. Taste for salt and pepper and stir in the chives.

Celery, Apple and Blue Cheese Soup
serves 6 to 8

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 bunch scallions, trimmed and chopped
6 ribs celery with leaves, chopped
1 large green apple, peeled, cored and diced
1 small potato, diced
4 cups chicken stock
3 ounces blue cheese
1 cup heavy cream or half and half
salt and pepper
celery leaves for garnish

In a medium saucepan heat butter and oil. Cook the onion, celery and apple until soft about 6 minutes. Stir in the potato and stock. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, 30 minutes. Puree the soup with the cheese in a food processor or blender. Return to pan, stir in the cream and heat through. Taste for salt and pepper and serve garnished with celery leaves.

Mustard Shrimp with Two Celeries
serves 4

1 pound bay shrimp
1 stalk celery, diced
1/2 cup celery leaves, chopped
2 scallions, thinly sliced
Dressing:
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons mild mustard
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons celery seed
salt and pepper

In a medium bowl combine shrimp, celery, leaves and scallions. In a small bowl combine dressing ingredients until well blended. Toss with shrimp mixture. Taste for salt and pepper. Serve on lettuce leaves as a salad or use as a sandwich filling.

 

Jeannette & Louise are Bay Area freelance food writers and the authors of several books including Sweet Onions & Sour Cherries and A Good Day for Soup.



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