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Celery 101

by Jane Wangersky | March 20th, 2015 | Cooking Basics
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celery stalks (400x400)Until I tried the organic kind, I never realized that celery actually had a flavor. All the celery I’d tasted before had just filled my mouth with a slight impression that I was eating some crisp green vegetable. Still, it was cheap and healthy, and thus useful for filling out tomato sauces, stir fries, and other dishes with plenty of stronger flavored ingredients. Also for bringing dip to my mouth — then I’d have to eat the celery because no one else would want it.However, as I learned belatedly, though celery’s flavor is delicate, it does exist, and it adds a fresh springlike touch to your cooking — if you’re careful not to cook the flavor out.

So let’s look at celery and what to do with it. The USDA has published some handy facts: A pound of celery is about 16 stalks (so each stalk is about an ounce) and will give you approximately four cups of chopped celery. It should be refrigerated, in plastic wrap or a non-metallic container.

Before using, you should cut off the wide part at the lower end and the narrow parts at the upper end. (They’re edible, so save them. The leaves are not, though.) Celery hearts are the inner stalks, without the leaf end but still attached to the bunch, so they still need trimming.

Chopped celery will cook in about five minutes, either in a little fat or in boiling liquid. The USDA also gives a recipe for braised celery — you just cook it in broth, ½ cup to six cups celery, over low heat for 20 to 25 minutes. See the whole thing here.

Alternately, you could try our very own Think Tasty braised celery recipe.

Raw celery is good mixed into egg, chicken or tuna salad — and it does help you stretch out the more expensive ingredients. It can even be combined with apples and raisins in a sweet salad.

Celery, onions, and bell peppers make up what’s called the Holy Trinity of Cajun cooking. You can chop, mix, and keep some of this in the fridge for a few days.

It can also be pickled, just like any other vegetable, even at home without any canning equipment. You could try substituting it for the cucumbers in this recipe for refrigerator pickles. If you do pickle celery, save the leaves and put them in the jar — I saw that in a recipe from Gordon Ramsay.

Of course, there’s always ants on a log, as well as celery stuffed with cream cheese, which can both help get kids to eat their vegetables. They may be too fatty for us adults.

Finally, stuffed celery doesn’t have to be raw — see yesterday’s recipe for more about that.

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