It’s the week before Christmas and right smack dab in the middle of Hanukkah, which means that I should be writing about gingerbread or jelly doughnuts, or maybe frosted cookies or boozy eggnog. In fact, the very last thing I should be writing about is celery, which is at the top of every diet food list, right up there with plain rice cakes and fat-free cottage cheese. (When I was in high school, someone told me that it actually burns calories to eat celery. That’s probably not accurate, but I ate a lot of it at the time.) I really was planning to save this post until January, when we will all be forgoing dessert and hitting the gym in squeaky new sneakers, but I can’t help myself. It’s too delicious and I’m too excited about it not to share the recipe right this very instant.
True story: after eating a second helping of this salad, Alex put down his fork, looked at me quizzically from across the dining room table, and said, “Maybe I am a celery person.” Has anyone, in the history of eating, ever said they are “a celery person”?! I don’t think so. But I’m pretty confident that this recipe has the power to change all that. Tender, crisp celery and juicy slivers of green apple are tossed with a tart lemon dressing that packs an umami punch thanks to a secret ingredient. Drumroll, please… miso paste. Like anchovy paste, you won’t be able to taste it, but it imparts a deeply savory flavor. Just before serving, the salad is showered with crunchy toasted walnuts. Yum.
This is a perfect winter salad. Does celery technically have a season? I don’t know. But you can always count on in to be available and fresh, and unlike, say, strawberries, it tastes the same in January as it does in June. The salad is crisp and light and acidic, which makes it an ideal accompaniment to rich cold-weather fare like braises or roasts.
Make sure you buy a whole bunch of celery and not a package of pre-cut stalks. The leaves are really pretty and pack a ton of peppery flavor, and you will be sad if you don’t include them. This is a great make-ahead option because all the lemon juice keeps the apple from turning brown, and the celery actually gets crisper as it sits in the dressing. Just save about half of the dressing to freshen it up, and toss with the walnuts and parsley just before serving.
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
- 1 tablespoon minced shallot (or 1 small minced garlic clove, because I forgot the shallot)
- 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
- 1/4 teaspoon celery salt
- 1/4 teaspoon miso paste
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 5 heaping cups thinly sliced celery stalks, leaves included, sliced on the diagonal
- 1 Granny Smith apple, cored and thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts
- 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
- At least 1 hour before serving, whisk the olive oil, lemon zest, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, shallot (or garlic), celery seed, celery salt, miso, and a big pinch of salt and pepper in a small bowl. In a large bowl, toss the celery and apple with the remaining tablespoon of lemon juice. (According to Ina, even though there is lemon juice in the dressing this step makes a difference, and I believe everything Ina says.) Add half of the dressing and toss. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Just before serving, toss the salad with the remaining dressing, the walnuts, and parsley.