Thursday, August 29, 2013

Cutting Celery in Soup and Salad

This Sunday at the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market you can look forward to the following offerings from Sweetwater Farm, Fair Valley Farm, and Tiger Lily Art Company:

heirloom tomatoes, romas, and tomato deals: 10 lbs/$18, $20 lbs/$30 (try this soup)
blackberries and cantaloupes (great with pancakes)
peaches and Bartlett pears from the Columbia Gorge
corn (add to fish soup)
pepperoncini, poblanos, red hot cherries, anaheim chiles, and assorted pepper bargain bags
eggplants, fresh spring garlic, and onions (add to pasta sauce)
cucumbers, zucchini, carrots, and kohlrabi (toppings for peanut sauce noodles)
cutting celery (add to soups and salads, see below)
new potatoes and beets (build a battery
assorted herbs including Italian parsley and 1 lb bags of basil (make pesto)
bietola, kale, chard, and a variety of lettuces including iceberg (try bietola gomae)
dried beans and grains from Camus Country Mill (make some lentils with parsley)
jams, salsa, and pickles from Sweet Creek Foods
pastured chickens from Fair Valley Farm (make chicken and rice)
floral arrangements from Tiger Lily Art Company

I'm so grateful to the Fairmount Market farmers who weathered last Sunday's showers to bring us food and flowers that brighten our kitchens and broaden our minds. I'd never tasted cutting celery (or leaf celery or smallage) before, but was eager to try this wild celery variant that is more leaf than stalk. We headed home from the market a little damper than we had started. To warm us up, I cooked some rain drenched tomatoes into a quick pot of creamy tomato soup that tasted perfect for the impending start of the school year. As an afterthought, I chopped up a pesto garnish of cutting celery and walnuts, which added a burst of bright flavor to the silky soup and reminded us that it's still summer vacation. 

The next day, when the sun was shining again, I made a delicious late summer salad of astringent cutting celery leaves and sweet Asian pears, softened with cubes of creamy feta cheese. In soup and salad, these leaves pack a vibrant punch and they are definitely worth walking through the rain to procure. 

Creamy Tomato Soup with Cutting Celery Pesto
serves four
for the soup
12 roma tomatoes
2 Tbsp butter
1 large shallot or small onion
1 clove garlic
1 cup water or stock
1/2 cup milk, half and half, or cream
salt and pepper to taste

for the pesto
1 handful cutting celery leaves 
1 handful walnuts
pinch of salt
1 Tbsp olive oil

1. Peel and dice the onion and garlic. If you like, peel the tomatoes by coring them, scoring them with an "X" at the back end, and blanching them in boiling water for 1 to 2 minutes. When cool enough to handle, peel off the skin. Chop the tomatoes into 6 to 8 pieces. Set a kettle with 1 cup of water and start warming a soup pot over medium heat. 

2. Melt the butter in the soup pot and add the shallot or onion. Cook until soft, then add the garlic, cook a couple minutes longer, then add the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Simmer until the tomatoes have cooked down into a paste, about 15 minutes. Add the water or stock and simmer for 5 more minutes.

3. Blend the soup until smooth in a blender or using and immersion blender. Return to the pot, add the milk or cream, and warm (but don't allow to boil). Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary.

4. Meanwhile, chop the celery leaves and walnuts together into a coarse pesto and stir together with a pinch of salt and 1 Tbsp of olive oil.

5. Serve the soup warm with a dollop of celery leaf pesto.

Cutting Celery and Asian Pear Salad
2 large handfuls cutting celery leaves
2 Asian pears
juice from 1 lemon
4 ounces feta cheese, cubed
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp olive oil
salt and plenty of fresh black pepper

Core and slice the Asian pears and toss them in a salad bowl with the lemon juice to prevent then from browning. Toss in the celery leaves and feta cheese. Whisk together the vinegar and olive oil and pour over the salad. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

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