Fine Cooking (February 2011)
Celery -- usually relegated to the role of supporting player in salads, braises and stir-frys -- rarely gets a chance to shine in a dish.
So we were excited to see Fine Cooking do a feature on new uses for celery. Their premise is that it's readily available and often cheap, so it can be used as more than just a vehicle for eating peanut butter.
In fact, this feature on celery reminded us of another of the magazine's features that we loved from a few years ago, which focused on cooking with grapes. We love the thinking behind features like this, taking an overlooked or neglected ingredient and using it in new ways.
Fine Cooking offers several new twists on celery -- including Celery Sauteed with Leeks and Mushrooms and made as a Cream of Celery and Celery Root Soup -- but we opted for this Celery, Fennel, and Black Olive Salad with Parmigiano Dressing.
There was some initial hesitation in our house about making this salad, based solely on one ingredient.
No, it wasn't the anchovy fillet, which is optional if you fear the fish. (But if you make this salad, we encourage you to use the anchovy unless you're absolutely turned off by them -- we thought it was great here.)
It was, instead, the two tablespoons of mayonnaise that's used in the dressing. Once you've combined the sliced celery fennel and parsley, it's tossed with a dressing of Parmigiano, mayonnaise, lemon juice/zest and anchovy.
We were afraid that mayonnaise in a salad like would dominate the other flavors, tasting more like that ingredient than the celery or fennel.
But this wasn't the case at all. Once assembled, this is an amazingly fresh tasting salad, both creamy and crunchy, with a bracing jolt of flavor from the briny olives and salty anchovy.
It's like a winter twist on a summer Caesar. And it's an absolutely delightful salad.
Is celery a leader or a loser in your house? A recipe to share? Let us know in the comments.
Serves 4 to 6
- 3-1/2 cups thinly sliced celery (sliced on the diagonal)
- 1 small fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh flat-leaf parsley
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 2 Tbs. mayonnaise
- 1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
- 1 anchovy fillet, minced (optional)
- 1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup oil-cured black olives, pitted and chopped
In a large bowl, combine the celery, fennel, and parsley. Season with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper.
In a small bowl, mix the Parmigiano, mayonnaise, lemon juice, lemon zest, and anchovy (if using). Whisk in the oil until combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Toss the celery mixture with the dressing, fold in the olives, and serve.