No longer merely a school lunch staple, celery is coming into its own as a tasty, crunchy and nutritious vegetable option. “It’s a great example of a vegetable that can be prepared in multiple ways,” says cookbook author Robin Asbell. “You can puree the root, braise the stalk, chop raw celery leaves and even add celery seeds as a garnish.”
Celery root, also called celeriac, is on an upward trend for fine dining operations. “It’s sweet and peppery, and it’s delicious cooked as a puree or served raw, when thinly shaved on a mandolin,” Asbell says. “Some bakers are even using puree of celery root for baked goods, in place of pumpkin or sweet potatoes.”
A classic preparation is Celery Victor, a marinated celery salad created in 1910 by Victor Hirtzler, head chef at San Francisco’s St. Francis Hotel (he’s the same chef who invented Crab Louie). In this dish, celery hearts are simmered in stock, chilled, then tossed with peppers and served over Romaine lettuce. Even all these years later, it’s a dish that still appears on many menus. Gabrielle Hamilton serves Braised Cold Celery Hearts Victor at New York’s Prune. An update on the classic is served in San Francisco by chef Chris Cosentino of Cockscomb, whose interpretation includes thinly sliced celeriac and fresh celery leaves marinated in meat stock and vinegar, served with crispy chicken-skin cracklings and a sprinkle of cilantro.
Celery is best known as the go-to swizzle stick for Bloody Mary cocktails. “It’s also appearing in inventive cocktails that feature sweetened celery juice or celery syrup,” Asbell says. “It’s surprisingly refreshing and tasty.”
Celery is also a prized high-water-content ingredient for dedicated juicers. “I have several recipes using celery in my book Juice It!: Energizing Blends for Today’s Juicers,” Asbell says. “It has a number of health benefits and is often touted as a natural headache cure.”
As a soft drink, the most popular “tonic” using celery as an ingredient is Cel-Ray, a celery-flavored soft drink from Dr. Brown’s that’s often served in delicatessens. It’s similar to ginger ale in its sweetness and fizz, and it packs a good punch of celery flavor. In the 1930s, celery tonic’s popularity earned it the nickname “Jewish Champagne.”
Celery pairs well with a variety of Marzetti® dips, and it’s a sturdy choice for on-the-go snackers. For an appetizer, feature a celery-centric crudité plate with Marzetti® Ranch Veggie Dip or Fat Free Ranch Veggie Dip.
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