Celery...does it have any purpose?
March 11, 2010 6:00 PM   Subscribe

What can I do with celery, other than throw it in the garbage?

For the second week in a row, my beloved CSA has given me an entire head of celery. I have absolutely no idea what to do with it. Throughout my entire life, I have never had a dish with celery and said after eating it, "you know what, that celery really contributed to the dish!" I'm not anti-celery or anything--I am completely open minded about the vegetable. It just has never impressed me in the past.

Here are two things I know I can do with celery:
1) Slice it an put peanut butter on it. No thank you, if I want to eat peanut butter, I will put the spoon directly in the jar. I don't need to lie to myself about being "healthy".

2) Put it in soup. I've had lots of soup with celery slices, but I don't feel like it contributed anything. It always made me think that the chef just had some extra celery they didn't know what to do with.

So, MeFi, what can I do with celery? I am challenging you to give me one reason to like celery. I don't care if you tell me to wrap it in bacon, as long as I feel like the celery contributed to the bacon in some minuscule way. The vegetable has to have SOME purpose, right?
posted by wondercow to Food & Drink (64 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
Onion, carrot, celery = mirapoix. Soup, stew, gumbo, etc.
posted by fixedgear at 6:04 PM on March 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

Celery in soup isn't especially about the texture of the floating slices - it adds subtle flavor. Saute it first.
posted by needs more cowbell at 6:05 PM on March 11, 2010

I love, love, love celery. I made this salad and it was great.
posted by govtdrone at 6:05 PM on March 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Celery is good by itself. Clean it, cut it up, and let it soak in water for a bit. Plumps it up. Super crunchy.

Also, cream of celery soup. Totally different than eating plain raw celery but also good.

Great in stir-fry. Soaks up flavors.

When I cook a pot of black beans, I cut up onions and celery and they break down and add goodness to my beans.
posted by kirst27 at 6:06 PM on March 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

It does indeed. A whole head goes on for ever, and is usually chucked in the compost half used, but I feel lost when there's none in the fridge.
posted by cromagnon at 6:06 PM on March 11, 2010

Roast it. Make a celery and walnut soup. Roast it and make a soup. Or make Khoresh Karafs.
posted by holgate at 6:06 PM on March 11, 2010

Add it to your Bloody Mary. (I am going to go eat some celery right now.)
posted by govtdrone at 6:06 PM on March 11, 2010

Boil it with carrots and chicken parts to make soup stock (you can always freeze this one too if you have that much celery to get rid of)
Chop it up and put it in tuna fish salad
Blend it into a fruit/vegi smoothie
Put it into a Chinese stir fry
posted by fan_of_all_things_small at 6:06 PM on March 11, 2010

It goes in a soup. You can cook it with the other ingredients, but if you want it to be crunchy you can put it in right before it's done so it gets barely cooked.

It's also good with hummus on it.
posted by k. at 6:06 PM on March 11, 2010

It does add a lot of flavor to stocks.
I'm not a giant fan, but I do love it chopped and added to the end of a stir fry for crunchiness.
It also serves as a dandy excuse for eating cream cheese.
posted by littleflowers at 6:07 PM on March 11, 2010

Celery is delicious in risotto (tons of recipes online).
posted by halogen at 6:07 PM on March 11, 2010

Celery is the perfect dipping vegetable. It has lots of crisp so scoops up a good amount of dip, it doesn't have an overpowering flavour to it, and has negative calories so you can eat all the dip you want!
posted by yawper at 6:07 PM on March 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Celery, sour cream, soy/Worcestershire sauce, mix latter two ingredients as a dip, dip former ingredient in. replace soy/Worcestershire with ranch dip mix or other mixes as well.
posted by deezil at 6:08 PM on March 11, 2010

Onion, carrot, celery = mirapoix. Soup, stew, gumbo, etc.

Where I'm from, gumbo is made with the trinity - onion, bell pepper, celery.
posted by bradbane at 6:09 PM on March 11, 2010 [5 favorites]

My dad's "Jambalaya" recipe (in quotes because it's been heavily modified)

3 cups rice
1 1/2 cups vermicelli
2 or 3 large onions finely chopped
5 stalks celery  "           "
3 cloves garlic minced
6 cups chicken broth
2  cans chopped tomatoes
2 Polish kalbasi sausages sliced 1/4"

1 heaping teaspoon thyme
    "               "      rosemary
1/2 tsp sage
2 bay leaves
1/4 cayenne pepper (personal taste)
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1 teaspoon salt (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
6 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons butter     
Take very big skillet or pan  that has a lid. Heat pan on high and add 1/2 butter and olive oil.   put in onion and celery and saute on medium high (be sure not to burn it) for a couple of  minutes and then add the garlic.  Keep cooking until most of the liquid is gone and you see  just a hint of brown on onions.  Remove from pan and set aside
Put rest of butter and olive oil in skillet and add the rice and vermicelli.  Saute on high heat  stirring or shaking pan from time to time until vermicelli is brown and rice takes on a nutty  aroma  Add chicken broth, tomatoes and the remainder of the ingredients then stir well.   Add kalbasi and stir again. Put cover on bring to boil  (about 5 minutes) and then turn to  heat to very low.  Cook for 50 - 60 minutes.  Remove cover fluff up rice and serve.  
posted by Narrative Priorities at 6:09 PM on March 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

Celery stew?

I coincidentally just read this recipe this morning, so have not tried it, but the poster (who didn't think celery stew seemed like a good idea before tasting it) pretty much raved about it, and as an added plus, it uses a lot of celery at once.
posted by emumimic at 6:10 PM on March 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

I always put celery in risotto, soups, and eat a couple of sticks nearly every day as a snack at work.

It is very high in fibre - pooptastic stuff!
posted by robotot at 6:10 PM on March 11, 2010

Great in stir-fry. Soaks up flavors.

A common dish here in Hong Kong has celery slices mixed with chicken and cashews.

I like this even though I'm not a huge fan of celery in general.
posted by bwg at 6:11 PM on March 11, 2010

You can grill it. Clean it, brush it with a bit of olive oil, and grill it for a few minutes until it gets soft. It's great dressed with a bunch of chopped garlic that has been gently cooked in olive oil, some lemon, and maybe an anchovy added to the garlic and olive oil if you like anchovies. I'm sure you could dress it with any acid and some olive oil.

(This is actually a really good dish.)
posted by OmieWise at 6:11 PM on March 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Celery sticks are awesome plain. Really. When I was a kid we put salt on them.
They're also good with hummus.

Celery greens are lovely added to a clear-ish or miso soup last thing, after taking the soup off the heat.

Save the greens! You can freeze them if you want, and then use them to flavor soup by adding first. Ditto celery heart. Chop for this use.

I can't imagine how awesome fresh Spring celery from a CSA would be. And you're in Atlanta? I had no idea it could grow there (I was born there).
posted by amtho at 6:11 PM on March 11, 2010

I have been meaning to try braised celery, because you peel the strings off the outside before cooking, and the strings are the part I don't like.

But yea, whenever making a soup, stew, or pot roast, I can't imagine it without celery. I wrap mine in aluminum foil and it keeps crisp longer.
posted by cabingirl at 6:14 PM on March 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Make a vegetable stock -- extremely useful.

Tomato sauce. Saute chopped, onions, and celery in olive oil in a saucepan. Add water spices/herbs you want. Then empty a whole big can of diced tomatoes into the pan and add bay leaf, salt, and pepper. (Optional ingredients to add flavor here: soy sauce, honey, cinnamon, stock.) Simmer for 20-40 mins. Optional additions at the end: toasted pine nuts, lemon, chopped fresh parsley, parmesan cheese. If you're putting it on pasta, you can moisten the sauce at the end with pasta water.

And yeah, it really is good in soup. Not every good food is something you eat and are like, "Wow, this tastes so good!" A food like celery doesn't necessarily taste great if you just focus on it, but it's really useful as one of many ingredients. It's calorie-free and completely healthy, and you have it already, so I don't see why you'd throw it out.
posted by Jaltcoh at 6:22 PM on March 11, 2010

Whatever you have leftover, you can chop up and stick in the freezer for stock later ... I keep a freezer-safe tupperware container that I throw the useless bits and leftover bits of carrot, celery, onion (especially the skins!), chicken bones, etc., into, and when it gets full, I boil it for stock. (Throw in garlic, some herbs, and dried mushrooms give really nice flavor and color.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:26 PM on March 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

Finely chopped in tuna salad.
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:29 PM on March 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

Onion + carrot + celery = mire poix. Make this chicken recipe. Best Chicken Ever. Don't skip the wine step.
posted by smcameron at 6:37 PM on March 11, 2010

Oh, and if you add cut up potatoes all around the edge of the skillet, and don't be afraid to make a *lot* of mire poix (makes cooking time longer) then you get an entire meal for 3 or 4 people all in one pan, all in the oven.
posted by smcameron at 6:39 PM on March 11, 2010

My local market has a sign stuck in the celery describing it as "vegetable salt" - similar to salt, you may not base a meal around it, but it adds a subtle vegetable tone to the food. As already suggested, the mire poix is a good use for it and can then be used for soup bases, pasta sauces, fried rice, curry, risottos.

It will freeze ok for using in mire poix. I chop it up and stick it in ziplock bags to hasten mire poix use.
posted by AnnaRat at 6:50 PM on March 11, 2010

(ugh, apologies for the weird formatting in my comment above -- that's what I get for posting from the iphone, I suppose...)
posted by Narrative Priorities at 6:56 PM on March 11, 2010

I'm not a big fan of cooked celery. I don't care for the texture once it's lost its crunchiness.

But in salads, celery is the bomb.

Tuna salad, pasta salad, brown rice salad, etc. All are much improved by the addition of sliced or diced celery.

Also, see Waldorf Salad.

Celery...it's all about the crunch!
posted by marsha56 at 7:13 PM on March 11, 2010

Thanksgiving stuffing. Have turkey day in March.
posted by belau at 7:32 PM on March 11, 2010

I don't understand those who wrote something along the lines of "celery tastes great by itself" The whole point of the question was to avoid eating it plain. Anyway, celery really goes great with almost ANY type of dip of your choice.

Sour Cream
Cream Cheese
Any type of salad dressing
Melted Cheese
Spinach Artichoke

Any combination of the above. The point is, celery is so bland that it works with any type of dip.
posted by Wanderer7 at 7:39 PM on March 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I like celery chopped up in Macaroni Salad. My grandma always adds finely chopped celery to hers, I've made it sans celery and it just isn't the same without it. It adds the much needed crunch. I also like it in Chicken and Tuna Salads. Of course I love celery with peanut butter, something about the taste combination is just awesome.
posted by TooFewShoes at 7:50 PM on March 11, 2010

Every soup or 'red' sauce I make starts with a lot of celery, onion and carrot, finely, finely diced or blended and allowed to brown (This takes a long time) for like 30 minutes. Proceed as normal.

Otherwise, I don't much care for it.
posted by GilloD at 7:55 PM on March 11, 2010

I know it's not a food, per se, and it might not sound so delicious from where you're sitting, but juice it! carrot, beetroot, celery, maybe a few apples- you got yourself a marvellously refreshing, cleansing type beverage. Yum. Maybe some mint or some ginger, or both, and yum.
posted by Philby at 7:57 PM on March 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I love celery stuffed with pimento cheese. Wish I had some now.
posted by wv kay in ga at 8:08 PM on March 11, 2010

It's a useful component in bouillon.
posted by knile at 8:25 PM on March 11, 2010

Seconding Waldorf salad.
posted by flabdablet at 8:25 PM on March 11, 2010

Celery is vile, but a few sticks of it inside your guitar or mandolin case will keep it moisturized in the winter.
posted by scruss at 8:34 PM on March 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

The reason that celery is added to soup stocks and other bases is because it contains a decent amount of glutamates, those wonderful umami friends that give a extra savory note to anything you add it to. I'm guessing that if you asked ten cooks, nine would tell you they use celery for stock-making because "that's the way you're supposed to do it," but it does bring something to the party other than fiber and texture.
posted by caminovereda at 8:47 PM on March 11, 2010

half-inch dice in tuna-noodle casserole. cheese on top, no potato chips, last 30 seconds under the broiler for crust.
posted by toodleydoodley at 9:05 PM on March 11, 2010

I've seen celery in cottage or shepherds pie - whether it contributes to the dish is debatable, however it can give it more substance.
posted by swisspotter at 9:06 PM on March 11, 2010

If you clean and trim a rib or two, then split them lengthwise a couple of times, and then mince up those strips, you can add it to egg salad to give it a little zingy texture.

Egg Salad That Doesn't Suck

2 hardboiled eggs, peeled and chopped
2 heapy tbsp mayo
One lengthy squirt of mustard, ballpark will do, Dijon if you're fancy
2 minced up celery ribs
2 chopped green onions
Lots of fresh ground pepper
Cayenne to taste

Make it the night before you want to eat it. It is good served inside squishy dinner rolls, and this will make four rolls. You can tear the rolls open and mine some of the breadiness out from inside to leave a hollow for your egg salad.

If you're not in a mood to chop and dice and stir and all that, you could forego all cutlery and silver and just stick the celery directly into the peanut butter. No spoon required. Celery can also make the dreaded CHEEZ WHIZ edible, for certain values of edible.
posted by Sallyfur at 9:12 PM on March 11, 2010

My mom has always put it in her chicken salad, very finely diced, so I do when I make it too. I find I can taste the subtle flavor it adds better in clear broths than thicker soups, like potato soup. She also taught me that keeping celery wrapped up in aluminum foil makes it last much, much longer. No more brown celery! If you need an earworm to help you out, I can't chop celery without thinking of this song.

govtdrone, that salad looks fabulous, thanks for sharing it.

holgate: "Or make Khoresh Karafs." Am I the only one who read that and thought of Klau Kalash?
posted by IndigoRain at 10:12 PM on March 11, 2010

0. Flash boil it before eating. It will be a different experience. Try it with some nice aoli.

1. Celery is an "aromatic vegetable", like onions, carrots, and turnips. Which means it many be used as a secret ingredient in many things. For this, a lightly cooked mirepoix is an easy and effective way of leveraging its flavor.

2. Celery as an herb. Slice diagonally paper-thin and use in, e.g. salads.

3. Huge chunks of pickled celery. Use salt and vinegar.

4. Cut into long strips, and put it at the bottom of a whole, roasting chicken, or an array of chicken legs. During the bake, it will soak up the chicken juices and flavors. will. marry.

5. Genetically it is in the same family as carrots and parsley.

6. Complements well with: apples, grapes, walnuts, goat cheese.
posted by polymodus at 10:53 PM on March 11, 2010

Agreed with above; it's a pretty key ingredient in tuna salad/tuna melts, finely chopped.

> Slice it an put peanut butter on it. No thank you, if I want to eat peanut butter, I will put the spoon directly in the jar. I don't need to lie to myself about being "healthy".

Man you don't put celery in there because you're pretending it's healthy, you do it because it's awesome. If you don't believe me, try "ants on a log" which was my favorite snack when I was young: cut a 3-4" length of celery, smear peanut butter into the "U" of the celery, and lay some raisins on the top of the peanut butter. Like this. Fuck yes.
posted by churl at 11:27 PM on March 11, 2010

I made a surprisingly good salad of tuna, celery, red capsicum and mushrooms with a lemon juice and olive dressing last week. So good that I'm planning to do it again.
posted by kjs4 at 11:35 PM on March 11, 2010

Factoid about celery that you didn't know: Eating celery makes your man~juices taste better, both pre~cum and cum. Don't laugh until you've tried it. I started eating celery every day because of that, which my SO was happy about, and now I eat it because I like it. The crunch, the burst of flavor and the wonderful chewy fibrous leftovers that I can chew for awhile. I don't know if it works for woman juices~anyone else know?

For Turkey or Chicken soup, use the large leaves, they are an herb that is quite strong and adds a good flavor.

The smaller shoots and leaves in the center, the light colored ones, are just exquisite, sweet and delicate in flavor. DO NOT throw them away, they are the best part.
posted by davoid at 11:38 PM on March 11, 2010

Curried celery soup

It uses all of it.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:55 AM on March 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

eat it raw with peanut butter
posted by Sijeka at 3:44 AM on March 12, 2010

Up above I kind of pulled my punches on the recipe, I’m not sure why, maybe to show that there can be a lot of variation in how to serve celery. Someone else mentioned an aioli, which would go really well with grilled celery. However, there is no reason not to spell out the recipe I use:

1 head of celery cleaned & brushed with olive oil
Grill that until it’s relatively soft.

Several cloves of garlic and four anchovy fillets cooked in some olive oil until the garlic starts to brown and the anchovies fall apart.

Pour garlic/anchovy oil over the celery, finish with lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.
posted by OmieWise at 5:20 AM on March 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Garnish a bloody mary with it. Repeat as necessary.
posted by jquinby at 5:27 AM on March 12, 2010

I have a fairly strong dislike of raw celery, and I'm pretty indifferent to it cooked. In fact, at this very moment I ventured to pull out those "exquisite, sweet and delicate" inner shoots from the current head sitting in my fridge, and while they don't make me gag, I'm definitely not feeling the love.

That said, I *do* like the effect of celery in Louisiana/creole cookery (the abovementioned "holy Trinity"). I've also had decent luck making a crockpot pasta sauce out of a goodly amount of chopped celery (half a head or so) and a jar of spaghetti sauce, plus sausage (a fennel-y Italian sausage would be ideal, but I've also used smoked sausage in this concoction).
posted by drlith at 5:30 AM on March 12, 2010

I agree that celery on its own is pretty grotendous. However, you'd definitely notice its absence in a wide variety of things you love were it not to exist.

Anyway. Whenever I slow roast whole chicken(s), I line the bottom of the roasting pan with sliced onions and celery. After it's done cooking and has been hungrily devoured, toss the leavings, a bouquet garni, and some carrots back in the pan, deglaze with the liquid of your choice, simmer, and you have a chicken stock base of intense deliciousness.

I also have an awesome recipe somewhere for bacony corn chowder that uses a crazy amount of celery, which is maybe the most obscenely nommy soup I have ever eaten, and which I will attempt to locate when I am not half dressed and late for work.
posted by elizardbits at 5:31 AM on March 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

I love diced celery in spaghetti sauce. All you need is some canned spaghetti sauce, an equal amount of crushed tomatoes, diced celery (stems and leaves), diced onion, diced bell pepper and cooked ground beef (if you like), bay leaves, maybe some seasoned salt and whatever else you like in your spaghetti sauce. Combine in a crock pot or stock pot and cook on low for 8 hours (or on the stove for several hours). Celery adds a depth of flavor to spaghetti sauce that is delicious.
posted by FergieBelle at 6:07 AM on March 12, 2010

You can't make decent stock w/o celery IMO. Stock freezes amazingly well, and has innumerable uses (soups, stews, pilaf, risotto, couscous). Usual ratio on mirepoix is 2 parts onion to 1 part each carrot and celery. Add an herb bundle and some water, and you're most of the way to veggie stock. Add a chicken or some browned beef and you've got meat stock. A celery stick is also a neat place to tuck your herb bundle (bouquet garnis if you're fancy).
posted by Gilbert at 7:28 AM on March 12, 2010

Celery greatly improves a chicken salad sandwich, IMO.

Eating celery raw can help stave off the munchies when you're trying not to eat, and eating it can also help get gunk out from between your teeth (of course, sometimes the celery just gets stuck in your teeth instead, but that's another story).
posted by Vorteks at 8:06 AM on March 12, 2010

Tomato sauce. Saute chopped, onions, and celery

Sorry, I should have said: Saute chopped onions, carrots, and celery...
posted by Jaltcoh at 8:09 AM on March 12, 2010

Corn & Bacon Chowder. SO NOMMY. I usually take about 1/4 of the pot, puree it in the blender, and then mix it back in, for reasons which currently escape me. Maybe to make it thicker? Hm.
posted by elizardbits at 10:04 AM on March 12, 2010

Braise it as mentioned above, with a salty, meaty stock or broth--quite tasty and doesn't take long at all. I only discovered this one this week--make walnut crema and then eat celery with it as a dip, or mix chopped celery into some of it and spread it on toasted bread. I had some leftover and discovered it is really good with celery and with tart green apples, yummm. Possibly a finer use of the stuff than the original pairing with asparagus, to be honest.
posted by ifjuly at 11:42 AM on March 12, 2010

And you can mix it into turkey burgers.
posted by ifjuly at 11:42 AM on March 12, 2010

shaved celery salad with nicoise olives and proper (no green can!) parmesan. Use a citrusy dressing, or something with anchovies.

Celery and potato gratin.

Celery risotto with pistachio pesto.

I've grown celery at home, and it is nothing like celery from the store. It has such a good, minerally saltiness when grown organically in good soil.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:09 PM on March 12, 2010

Celery definitely has a flavor, and some people really like that, plus its crunchyness. I love it cut up and dipped in a lowfat ranch dressing/dip, or even plain. I also think the flavor it adds to soup is pretty significant -- have you ever made stock or broth? Using the parts with the leafy bits and all adds a ton of flavor. Also, diced, it adds a nice element of texture and crunch to tuna, egg, or chicken salads.
posted by tastybrains at 2:28 PM on March 12, 2010

Terriffic as an omelet filling:

In a small skillet,

3 pats of butter
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 tsp salt
handful of finely chopped onions
2 finely chopped celery stalks
4-5 medium sliced portobello mushrooms

Over medium heat, until onions clarify and mushrooms slightly wilt. Enough for 2 omelets.

While above cooks:

In an omelet pan,

2 beaten eggs, swirled and flipped for the classic omelet, in which
2 - 3 narrow edge slices (about 1/4" thick) Philadelphia cream cheese, over which
Spoon 4-5 tablespoons of filling from skillet #1,
and then fold omelet onto plate, to serve.

Repeat for 2nd omelet.

It's what they serve in Heaven, for breakfast...
posted by paulsc at 4:35 AM on March 13, 2010

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