Wow, what a weekend. I traveled six hours southwest on Friday to attend my grandma Virginia’s 85th birthday party in Woodward, Oklahoma. I traveled six hours back in time on Saturday to pick up Cookie before the border closed. And i took an alternative route that was supposed to save my travel time by around ten minutes. I was detoured by construction and forced to go across red dirt roads before being stopped for speeding by a police officer in a pick-up vehicle. Mom, look—no there’s ticket!
The first stop of Ali’s bachelorette party, which I hosted on Sunday, ended with eleven women screaming out Alanis Morissette lyrics in a segregated karaoke room. And yesterday, we held a distinctly laid-back baby shower to honor Jordan’s impending pregnancy. I’m restraining myself from making a third cup of coffee today.
I can’t be the only one who indulged excessively this weekend, can I? Let’s reset with a straightforward, affordable, and enticing celery salad. In my cookbook, I used chopped celery in two salads, but this is my first celery-only salad. It’s a salad element that is crisp, cool, and utterly unappreciated.
I discovered the dish in chef Joshua McFadden and Martha Holmberg’s brand-new cookbook Six Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables. Every month, Epicurious chooses a cookbook to cook from, and you can join in by tagging your food photographs with #EpicCookbookClub on Instagram and Facebook. Kat Sacks from Epicurious sent me the book so I could take part in this month’s #EpiCookbookClub. My favorite.
Also read: Green Bean Salad with Toasted Almonds & Feta
Six Seasons has me completely smitten. This lovely seasonal cookbook features a wide range of produce and provides creative recipes for each kind. I have a ton of recipes I want to attempt, but I decided to start with this one because McFadden claimed it was one of his favorites.
His introductions to the produce are teaching me a lot. For instance, in the introduction to celery, I discovered that celery is quite thirsty and requires a lot of care from producers, which is why you don’t commonly find it at farmers’ markets. When it is not constantly and adequately watered, it becomes tough and stringy. Have you yet to see purple or magenta heritage celery varieties? I’m now looking out for them.
- 8 long celery stalks, leaves separated and reserved, tough fibers peeled off with a vegetable peeler, sliced on an angle into ¼-inch thick pieces
- ½ cup raw almonds
- 4 Medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from about 1 ½ lemons)
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Sea salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (I used Parmesan*), shaved into shards with a vegetable peeler (to yield about ⅓ cup)
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Place the celery in a bowl of ice water and soak for about 20 minutes to heighten the crispness. Drain the celery and pat it dry with a tea towel, then pile the celery into a medium serving bowl.
- To toast the almonds, warm them in a medium skillet over medium heat, stirring often, until fragrant and toasted, about 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and chop with a chef’s knife.
- To the bowl of drained celery, add the celery leaves, chopped almonds, dates, lemon juice, and red pepper flakes. Season generously with salt (I started with ¼ teaspoon) and pepper, and toss to combine. Add the cheese and olive oil and toss gently. Taste and add more salt, pepper and/or red pepper flakes until you reach an irresistible balance of salty, spicy, tart and sweet.
- Serve at room temperature or chilled. This salad keeps well, covered and chilled, for about 3 days (before serving, toss again and pour off some of the excess liquid).