Celery, which is at its peak in Texas from December to April, is more versatile than you might think. Forget the mental image of a dieter nibbling miserably on a celery stick. Instead think about braising it or adding it to winter casseroles, mixing it with nuts, raisins and chicken or shrimp to make a delicious salad, or even treating yourself to a celery-garnished Bloody Mary or gin and tonic! Try celery raw, steamed, stir-fried, braised, roasted or blended into a broth, beverage or sauce. And don't forget about the leaves! Celery leaves can be used to make a pesto or you can add them to tabbouleh, soups, stews, pasta sauces or salads.
This crunchy veggie might be seasonal when you're purchasing it locally grown, but of course it's available (though sometimes imported) year-round. That means you can enjoy it in a salad or chilled soup during the hottest Houston months or incorporate it in your next soup or stew during the coolest. This healthy vegetable can be added to jambalaya or used to make stocks and broths.
And its virtuous reputation isn't unfounded. Not only is celery extremely low in calories but it's also a great source of antioxidants and enzymes along with Vitamins B6, C and K, folate and potassium. It also offers dietary fiber to boost digestion. Not bad for a vegetable that's 95 percent water!
How to Buy and Store Celery
Choose tightly packed, firm stalks which have medium to thick ribs. The root should be heavy and firm. You will want the celery crisp enough to snap easily. Avoid wilted leaves, and instead look for pale green ones. You can buy the mild-flavored, tender inner stalks, which are known as celery hearts, separately, although they cost more than buying the whole bunch of celery.
To store it, remove any discolored leaves and keep in a vegetable drawer in your refrigerator. The celery should be good for one or two weeks. Some people like to rinse the celery, then let it dry and wrap it in aluminum foil, while others keep it unwashed in a plastic bag, so take your pick. Keep it away from the inner sides of the refrigerator, though, because celery freezes easily and then it will go soggy and limp.
In a Starring Role at: Nick's Place
This Italian bar and pizzeria is great for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It's basically a simple, no-frills sports bar that offers everything from calzones and pizza to breakfast sandwiches, burgers, steak and gelato. If you want to add some celery to your meal, try the Buffalo wings, which are served with your choice of six different sauces (be warned — the habanero-garlic and ghost sauces are for the very brave!) and celery on the side—or the Buffalo shrimp if you're in a seafood mood. The jalapeño chips appetizer comes with celery and ranch dressing. If you're watching your waistline after the holidays, consider the Italian or Fiesta Salad, both of which boast celery as well as other tasty ingredients. There are also plenty of pizza options to choose from if you want something more substantial.
Recipe: Irish-Style Braised Celery
Yes, you can enjoy celery in the winter months. Try this Irish-inspired bacon and celery side dish! This serves about six people depending on the size of the celery. We used celery, onion and bacon as the main ingredients, and flavored the dish with parsley and bouillon, also adding butter for richness. This would be great with roasted chicken or you could try it with a meaty fish such as monkfish or cod.
- 1 head of celery
- 1 finely chopped yellow onion
- 2 finely chopped bacon slices
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
- 10 ounces chicken bouillon
- Salt and black pepper, to taste
- 1 ounce butter, cut into pieces
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut the celery into 1-inch chunks and place in a casserole dish, then sprinkle the onion, bacon and parsley on top. Pour the bouillon in, then scatter the pieces of butter over top evenly. Grind some salt and black pepper over everything, then cover and bake for about 35 minutes or until the celery and onion are tender. Use a slotted spoon to serve.
Stay tuned each week to learn more about what's fresh and exciting at the market and discover where you can enjoy the flavorful bounty of the season.