If your first thought on reading the post title was meh, whatever, think again. This is my favorite kind of recipe to share and my favorite way to eat. Yes its spare, and you may not think of celery as delicious in its own right, but give it a chance. Put yourself into a zen state of mind and quietly contemplate the slightly salty, herby celery, and the creamy bitter walnuts. The flavors are mellow and sophisticated…the crunch is awesome. You’re going to love the walnut vinaigrette — drizzle the extra over ripe pears for dessert. In its own humble way, this recipe is a game changer.
Celery is rarely given top billing in any recipe, so right away this is going to be a new experience. The flavor is subtle but pleasing, and the inner leaves have as much flavor as any herb. Look for a fresh head, without brown patches or wilted leaves. I like to use organic celery when I can find it Peel away the tougher outer stalks and save those for snacking with peanut butter. You want the heart of the head for this salad. (ok, that’s a little weird, but stay with me)
After giving the celery a thorough rinsing, you’re going to thinly slice it on the bias, leaves and all. Use a sharp knife for nice, clean cuts. Discard any bits of the core from the root end.
Unlike lettuce, celery will keep its crunch long after cutting, and in this case the salad gets even better after an hour or so in the fridge to encourage the celery to absorb some of the dressing. That makes it a nice choice for entertaining.
The dressing….where do I begin? It’s wonderful. I used walnut oil, which is fabulous to have around. You don’t cook with it, but rather savor its subtle flavor and light texture in salads. I used walnut vinegar, a specialty vinegar that compounds the walnut essence. If you can’t find it, you can use regular white wine or champagne vinegar. And then I used, of course, fresh walnuts. The three get blitzed in a small food processor into a pale emulsion that needs only a little salt and pepper to be just perfect.
- 1 head of celery
- 1/4 cup fresh walnuts, rough chopped, plus more for garnishing
- 3 Tbsp walnut vinegar (or white wine, or champagne vinegar)
- walnut oil
- salt and fresh cracked black pepper
- Rinse the celery well and remove the tough outer stalks. Cut off the root end but keep the whole head together.
- Thinly slice the head of celery, cutting on the diagonal. Use a sharp knife to get clean cuts.
- To make the dressing, put 1/4 cup of the nuts in a small 4-cup food processor. Process them until finely ground, you will have to scrape down the sides once or twice.
- Add the vinegar and process again. Then, while the machine is running, drizzle in the oil until you have an emulsion. Stop the machine and taste as you go until you get a balance of acidity that appeals to you.
- Add salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste.
- Toss the celery with enough dressing to coat lightly, and then put in the refrigerator for an hour or so.
- When ready to serve, top the salad more rough chopped walnuts and more dressing.
Inspired by Ina Garten
Your mind is probably already exploring the possibilities. Could you add thin slices of tart Granny Smith apple? Little blobs of soft goat cheese or shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano? Shredded rotisserie chicken? Sure, but do me a favor, try this salad in all its naked glory first :)