What to do with the whole celery stalk* you bought and used just one stick of? Why, this salad is quite magic – and I’m not keen on celery myself!
What is the point of celery?
Celery must be the most pointless vegetable of all. It has just three culinary applications, and one of them is a decoration for a drink.
I know there are those out there that will argue celery’s purpose: full of vitamins! potassium! water! It’s low in calories! And it’s important in Creole cooking!
The last point I tend to agree with, but that accounts for one of my three uses: for a soffritto or Mirepoix, the finely diced mix of aromatics that make up the cornerstone of, respectively, Italian or French sauces. That’s one use of celery.
The second is as the random stick plunged into a Bloody Mary. Theoretically, it’s supposed to cut through the soupiness of tomato juice as a palate cleanser, but have you ever seen anyone actually eat their Bloody Mary celery stick? It’s usually left abandoned in the empty cocktail glass or discarded onto a napkin before the first sip.
The third use is more legitimate and one where celery actually adds something to the taste: Waldorf salad. A mix of apple, walnuts and celery, dressed with mayonnaise, is reasonably tasty but I bet it was created in desperation: what to do with those stupid celery sticks languishing in the fridge?!
There’s always leftover celery in the fridge
Because that’s how the story goes: you need one (ONE, uno, ein) celery stick for a recipe but of course the least you can buy is the whole stalk.
*Which, incidentally, is what people commonly mistake a celery rib for. The bunch topped with leaves is technically ‘a stalk’, while individual sticks are called ‘ribs’. Confusing or what?
So the one rib, to call it by its proper name, is all you need for your risotto or chicken Creole and you’re left with its seven or eight mates, sitting forever in the fridge vegetable drawer, making you feel guilty as you grasp for ways to use them.
In vain – the truth is, nobody likes celery. It’s just not very tasty and stringy to boot.
Substitute for celery in soffritto
I have gone to some lengths to avoid the ‘celery in the drawer’ situation. I don’t drink Bloody Marys; I think there are many nicer salads than Waldorf and I have a clever hack for my soffrittos.
I use the stalk of the broccoli head, the thick stem as tasty as the florets, that gets always just chucked out and wasted. Finely diced, it can kick the celery on the head. Stalk.
Are celeriac and celery the same veg?
I much prefer celery’s cousin or bastard brother, celeriac. Contrary to some beliefs, celery is not celeriac’s top; it’s actually the same vegetable grown in two varieties: for the root (celeriac) and for the pointless stalks (celery). There is also another, leafy, variety mainly used in Asian cooking for soups and stews.
Celeriac is a gorgeous root vegetable: as nice raw and grated into remoulade or a coleslaw, as it is cooked. Baked whole in a salty crust, celeriac has become something of a celebrity dish recently, but rightly so as it tastes delicious.
Poor hateful celery that nobody likes! This recipe is its saving grace – it really makes the vegetable palatable, and even a little moreish.
How to make celery tasty
The secret, which I was completely unaware of, is firstly to peel the back of the celery rib which will remove the stringy, fibrous part. That makes it already more edible but add to it lots of furikake and we’re onto a straight road to a good salad.
Furikake is Japanese seasoning, primarily meant to be sprinkled on rice but, as in my case, it usually ends up sprinkled on literally everything apart from ice cream (though who knows?).
It is a mix of sesame seeds and dried seaweed, with a pinch of MSG or dried fish shavings sometimes added for a good measure of umami.
Kombu celery – except not
This salad recipe, created in Bar Goto in New York, is called ‘kombu celery’ and served there as a snack with cocktails.
It could be that all the furikake in New York is made with the kombu seaweed, but mine for instance has nori and shiso leaf instead. Another brand I have used, Nori Tamago Furikake, has a long list of ingredients but no kombu among them either.
That means I can’t really call my recipe ‘kombu celery’ and have to stick to ‘celery salad’ – as simple as that.
How to make celery salad?
After peeling the back of the celery ribs, they can be cut into batons like I did or sliced across, on a diagonal. The marinade/dressing is made of sesame oil, honey and soy sauce – Tamari is a nicer one to use in salads, if you can get it.
This marinade works on the celery for about half an hour in the fridge and that’s all – except furikake doing its magic of course. And if you can be bothered, some extra toasted sesame seeds will be a nice touch.
More raw salad recipes
Another commonly hated vegetable, brussels sprouts, tastes really good raw. Check out shaved brussels sprout salad with toasted walnuts.
Broccoli might also taste better when eaten raw – like in this recipe, raw broccoli with Asian dressing.
I like baked fennel, but it’s much nicer uncooked. Marinated fennel salad with ranch dressing – gorgeous!