Celery is one of those vegetables that tends to sit around in the refrigerator after you buy a bunch because a recipe for soup or stew or, as Thanksgiving approaches, stuffing calls for one stalk. Celery keeps for weeks, but a lot of droop-ing stalks still get thrown away. That’s too bad, because there are plenty of things to do with this vegetable, and the ten-der inner stalks that probably didn’t get used — the heart — are the best part.
Celery contains phytochemicals called phthalides, which some studies have shown reduce stress hormones and work to relax the muscle walls in arteries, increasing blood flow. As a result, it has long been used in Chinese medicine to help control high blood pressure. Celery is an excellent source of vitamins K and C, and a very good source of potas-sium, folate, dietary fiber, molybdenum, manganese, and vitamin B6.
Italian Mushroom and Celery Salad
Sliced very thin, celery adds a crunchy, herbal dimension to salads that you may not have known was missing. In one of my favorite Italian salads, celery is the main event, tossed together with shaved Parmesan, thinly sliced mush-rooms and parsley in a lemony vinaigrette. This Italian salad may seem plain, but there’s something about the combina-tion of textures and the tart and savory flavors that really works.
1/2 pound cremini or white button mushrooms, very thinly sliced
4 celery stalks, from the heart of the celery, very thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon minced chives
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice, or 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1/2 tablespoon (1 1/2 teaspoons) white wine vine-gar or sherry vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 ounces shaved Parmesan
1. Toss together the mushrooms, celery, parsley, and chives, and season with salt and pepper. Mix together the lemon juice (or lemon juice and vinegar) and olive oil, and toss with the vegetables. Just before serving, toss again with the Parmesan.
Yield: Serves 4
Advance Preparation: The salad can be assembled hours before tossing with the dressing and the Parmesan.