Throughout the growing season, we'll interview local farmers, chefs and other food lovers about seasonal cooking. Have a question? Email it to food writer Sarah Baker Hansen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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This week's visit to the Aksarben farmer's market was a lesson in celery.
Candie Blanchard, who runs the Prairie Gator Produce booth, told me the cutting celery she was selling in bunches is one of three types of celery. There's the stalk celery we're all familiar with; the celeriac, or celery root; and then there is leaf celery, also called cutting celery, which is grown for its leaves and used as an herb in Europe and China, though it is not terribly common in the U.S.
She said cutting celery can be used whole — stem, leaves and all — in many dishes including soups and salads where most cooks would simply use the traditional stalk celery.
Blanchard said she uses cutting celery in potato salad, coleslaw and stir fries. Cutting celery can also be used as an ingredient in green juices. Cooks who use cutting celery should be aware that the flavor of celery leaves is strong. They should be used in moderation so they aren't overpowering.
Prairie Gator Produce is at the Sunday Aksarben market; it will have more cutting celery in the next few weeks.
For this week's recipe, the cutting celery can be substituted for the stalk celery mentioned in the recipe. The cutting celery is turned into a light salad served on top of cooked beans, a perfect side dish at a summer barbecue.
Recipe: Sea Island Red Peas with Celery Leaf Salad
• 2 cups dried Sea Island red peas or black-eyed peas
• 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more
• 2 garlic cloves
• 6 sprigs thyme
• 1 fresh bay leaf
• ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling
• ½ cup finely chopped celery plus ½ cup celery leaves from inner stalks, or one cup chopped cutting celery
• ½ cup finely chopped onion
• ½ cup finely chopped red bell pepper
• 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
• 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
• 2 tablespoons thinly sliced chives
• 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
• Freshly cracked black peppercorns
Place peas in a medium pot; cover with 6 cups water; let soak for three hours or overnight.
Bring water with peas to a boil (do not drain); boil for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to medium; gently simmer, adding water by ½-cupfuls as needed to keep peas covered, until peas are tender but still hold their shape, 20-25 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 1 teaspoon salt. Season to taste with more salt, if desired.
Place garlic on a cutting board. Sprinkle with salt and chop, occasionally smearing with the back of a knife, until a coarse paste forms. Tie thyme and bay leaf with kitchen twine to form a bundle for bouquet garni.
Heat ¼ cup oil in a medium pot over medium heat; add garlic paste, bouquet garni, celery, onion and bell pepper; cook until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Add peas with their cooking liquid; bring to a simmer. Cook until flavors meld and sauce is thickened, 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in butter. Set aside.
Toast coriander seeds in a small dry skillet over medium heat, shaking pan often, until fragrant and slightly darker in color, 2–3 minutes. Let cool. Coarsely grind in a spice mill, or place in a resealable plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin or the bottom of a heavy skillet. Combine celery leaves, parsley, chives, lemon zest and crushed coriander seeds in a small bowl; drizzle with oil and toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and cracked pepper. Divide peas among plates or transfer to a serving bowl; garnish with salad.
Note: The peas can be made one day ahead. After they are cooked, cover and refrigerate. Rewarm the peas before continuing, adding more water by ¼-cupfuls if too thick, then proceed with the recipe.
Recipe courtesy bonappetit.com.