New England was hammered with snow last weekend, but this week in Atlanta the daffodils are already blooming! Oh, don’t be jealous, we’ll get another cold spell. It’s just a tease of spring. It’s still root vegetable and winter greens season for a few more weeks.
Eating seasonally and locally can be somewhat challenging this time of year. Salads are especially troublesome. I find that to snap out of the winter blues it’s important to think outside the box. One of my favorite winter salads is a celery salad. Poor celery is often relegated to the stock pot and is seldom featured in the kitchen. Occasionally children are served a “celery log” with peanut butter and dotted with raisin ants. (Well, if that’s the introduction to celery, then no wonder folks don’t like it!) It’s an obligatory accompaniment to hot wings, and sometimes it’s the vehicle for pimento cheese, but face it, most folks would just assume use a spoon.
In my salad, I shave the stalks into ribbons and dress them in a light lemon vinaigrette. The flavor of celery is assertively herbaceous and can be overpowering, but in my celery salad recipe, I celebrate celery. It’s fresh and unexpected. I served it recently at a dinner party and everyone was so surprised it was “just” celery.
If you have the winter vegetable blues, I’ve got just the book for you. My friend and colleague Diane Morgan has a brilliant new book out called Roots. It is stunningly beautiful and chock-full-of recipes for you to think outside the box about root vegetables.
Check out the buzz:
“Diane Morgan has written a masterful book about root vegetables.”– Deborah Madison, author of Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone
“Diane Morgan has done the impossible. She has transformed the subject of root vegetables into an extraordinary reference book and brought them deliciously to life with irresistible recipes. This is a must for any cook who wants to expand their culinary horizons and navigate the fascinating world of root vegetables with confidence.” — Grace Young, author of Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge
“Diane Morgan demonstrates that looks aren’t everything, especially when it comes to root vegetables. From burdock and crosne to salsify and yuca, Morgan’s recipes curry favor with taste buds that are open to culinary adventures. Her dedication frees the way for a deeper appreciation of some of the most underappreciated ingredients we know. Thankfully, many of the starring vegetables can be found at the farmers’ market, local grocery store, or ethnic markets.” – Epicurious, The Best Cookbooks of 2012
I am thrilled for Diane. She was in the running in Piglet, Food52′s cookbook cooking competition. Sadly, she didn’t advance, but I truly believe that Roots is going to win in the long run. It’s truly the definitive book on root vegetables with 225 recipes. She shares information about familiar vegetables like beets, turnips, and carrots — as well as recipes, tips, and techniques for strange roots like lotus, cassava, and crosnes. I know it’s now my go-to guide for research, reference, and recipe writing without a doubt. If you are serious in the kitchen and really like to cook, I am certain you are going to love this book.
Here are few recipes with crisp, delicious celery to help you snap out of your winter blues.
Bon Appétit Y’all!
Virginia’s Celery Ribbons with Tarragon Vinaigrette
Serves 4 to 6
If you really want to make this salad special, top with jumbo lump crab or steamed shrimp. You can also substitute chives in place of the tarragon for equally delicious results.
1 bunch celery
1 English cucumber
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 sprigs tarragon
Remove all the leaves from the celery; set aside for the garnish. Remove the outer stalks of the celery to use in the salad, reserving the heart for another use. Trim the tough white root ends from the stalks. Using a paring knife, pull and remove the tough strings. Hold the celery stalk flat against a clean work surface and use a vegetable peeler to make long ribbons from top to bottom. (Toward the end of peeling the stalks, it can become a bit more difficult to use the flimsy pieces; discard or save for another use, such as stock.)
Place the ribbons in a bowl. Peel the cucumber and discard the outer peel. Then, keep peeling ribbons from the outer fleshy part of the cucumber, turning as you go, stopping at and discarding the remaining seedy core. Add the cucumber ribbons to the bowl with the celery. Add the lemon juice. Toss to coat and set aside.
To make the dressing, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, and salt and pepper to taste in a large salad bowl. Add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly, until creamy and emulsified. Strip the leaves from 2 of the tarragon sprigs and chop to make about 1 tablespoon. Add the tarragon to the salad and season with salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the ribbons and toss to coat. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper.
Strip the leaves from the remaining sprig of tarragon. Serve the salad on chilled plates, garnished with the reserved celery leaves and whole tarragon leaves.
DIANE’S CELERY ROOT, CELERY HEART, AND CELERY LEAF SALAD
This salad is for the celery lover, as it uses the root, heart, and leaves. It’s a study in contrasts and colors, with textural crunch from the sliced celery heart and matchstick-cut root playing against the delicate tender leaves. The soft green of celery is layered with the darker tones of plucked whole parsley leaves. Look in a specialty food store or gourmet grocer for Moscatel vinegar, which has a delicate, mildly acidic flavor that complements celery root. Sherry vinegar or white balsamic vinegar is an acceptable substitute.
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1½ tbsp Moscatel vinegar
½ tsp kosher or fine sea salt
¼ tsp freshly ground pepper
⅓ cup/50 g golden raisins
1 medium celery root, about 12 oz/340 g, trimmed, peeled, and cut into matchsticks
¾ cup/105 g thinly sliced celery heart
½ cup/25 g lightly packed celery leaves (See Cook’s Note)
¼ cup/15 g lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
To make the dressing, in a small bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Add the raisins and set aside for at least 15 minutes to allow the raisins to plump.
In a large bowl, combine the celery root, celery heart, celery leaves, and parsley and toss to mix. Whisk together the dressing briefly, then pour just enough over the salad to coat the ingredients lightly and toss well. You may not need all of the dressing. Taste and adjust seasoning. Set the salad aside at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes to allow the flavors to meld before serving.
COOK’S NOTE: Use only the lightest green, innermost ribs—the heart—of the celery.
My salad – photo credit Helene Dujardin
Diane’s salad – photo credit Antonis Achilleos
Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website, virginiawillis.com. Thanks so much.
Copyright © 2013 Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc.