Celery, while being full of flavor and texture is often looked at as the pinnacle of plainness. Many farms go to great lengths in order to produce celery that is watery and lacking in flavor by hilling around the plants while they grow. This process is known as blanching, and has contributed greatly to our society’s ambivalence toward the calorie depleted stalks. When we grow celery, we are less concerned with eliminating the characteristic bitterness it possesses, and prefer to let it grow without being constricted by dirt or plastic casing. This results in a celery that is deeply green and concentrated in taste. It is a unique and special vegetable, very different from what you would find in the store, though it may seem puzzling as to what to do with it.
When dealing with our celery, we usually split it into two distinct parts: the leaves, which we treat as an herb, and the stalks, which we treat as a vegetable. The intensely flavored leaves can be a great substitute for parsley or cilantro, though you may want to use half and half of each instead of doing a complete substitution. You can also add them to soups or broths for an easy infusion of herbaceousness.
Processing and incorporating the stalks into your daily cooking can be very straightforward; simply chop them finely and add them to salads or sauteing vegetables to get an awesome burst of bittersweet celery flavor. However, if you want to try something new, I recommend roasting them in the oven.
One bunch celery, leaves removed and base trimmed
Fresh herbs like thyme, rosemary, dill, and tarragon
Handful crushed garlic cloves
Salt and Pepper
Heat your oven to 425, and place the celery on a baking sheet, along with garlic, herbs and the peel of the lemon. Season with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil, and squeeze the juice from the lemon over everything. Toss to evenly distribute the oil and place in the oven. Roast until the celery has become caramelized around the edges, about 15 to 20 minutes. This should sweeten the celery, and the added fat and acidity should balance its inherent bitterness.
When storing celery, treat it like an herb. You can either place the stems in water before putting it in the refrigerator, or place it in a plastic bag with a slightly damp paper towel, keeping it in your crisper drawer. It should last up to a week, though it will start to go limp if you don’t use it sooner than later.