Sunday, January 29, 2012

celery takes a bow

Just as soon as I adjust to the inevitable cold weather, it gets warm again. As I begin to grow comfortable with balmy winter days, it suddenly snaps back to cold. Hard to know what to expect next. A sunny cold day this weekend had me wandering through Flushing Meadow Park ruminating on what to do with celery.
I had a an unexpectedly large amount of chopped celery on my hands, an overflow from a donation I had made as part of a cooking demo for school children that I organized with Wellness in the Schools, the non-profit I work for.

Bare trees say winter. Sixty degree weather says something else.
Celery, the true work horse of the kitchen is rarely a star in its own right, more an essential supporting player. It is the lifeline of mirepoix, the aromatic vegetable combo that is the base of all great French stews. Celery would be an unthinkable omission in countless soups and salads.  But what to do with several cups of already chopped celery was my current quandary.
What would potato salad or tuna salad be with out celery?
Several years ago I came across a line in the entertaining book Julie and Julia where the author Julie Powell, after cooking one of Julia Child's recipes reported that braised celery was "a fucking revelation." This comment really stuck in my imagination. I have to admit I have never cooked a dish of braised celery. But, despite the amusing comment, what is a revelation to Ms. Powell seems like a slightly less than inspiring venture to me.

I thought back even further to a recollection from early childhood of Campbell's cream of celery soup, served on sick days by my attentive mother. It was mild flavored, creamy and salty; a pleasant happy bowl of warmth for a child seeking comfort. Curious if this old fashioned stalwart could be updated I decided to give it a try.
Inspiration strikes in Flushing Meadow Park.
It would have been easy to give my soup a shot in the arm with the addition of curry powder, but I resisted that very strong urge, to allow the flavor of the celery to speak for itself. The results were quite lovely; a subtle flavor that was both fresh and sophisticated. This would be a nice soup to serve as a first course for an elegant dinner. I could not stop myself from garnishing the soup with a good dousing of jalapeno pepper sauce and it certainly did not hurt the final result.

Give celery a chance to stand on its own. I might try braising it next time and go for the revelation.

Cream of Celery Soup -adapted from a recipe on

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 5 cups chopped celery
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 cup white cabbage cut into 1-inch pieces
  • pinch of salt and pinch of sugar
  • 1 potato, peeled, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 quarts chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • hot sauce, to taste
Melt butter and oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add celery and onions and cabbage, a pinch of salt and a pinch of sugar. Cook until very tender, stirring occasionally, about 15-20 minutes. Stir in potato, garlic and pepper. Add the broth; and simmer until all vegetables are very tender, about 20 minutes.  Add cream and simmer a few more minutes stirring often. Thin with more broth if necessary. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and garnish with hot sauce if desired.


  1. I guess the kids didn't like the celery.

    Anyway what is that on top of the soup?

    1. The kids did like the celery, I had just prepped too much! The swirl on top of the soup is jalapeno sauce.


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