Today's recipe comes from the delicious cookbook, Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy: A Feast of 175 Regional Recipes, by the always delicious-making Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and her daughter, Tanya Bastianich Manuali. I love watching Lidia cook on her tv shows. Everything she makes -- and I mean everything, even if it's eye of newt -- looks soooo incredibly good. She's so enthusiastic and descriptive and warm and inviting. Kevin loves Italian food and good food of any sort; Lidia's shows nearly reduce him to drooling. I tease Kevin that if I die or we split up, he won't go for a trophy wife, he'll weasel his way into marrying Lidia (she's 60+ years old)...for her food. Lidia's mother, Erminia, who must be in her 80s, knows her way around a garden and a kitchen; she may not be safe, either.
Annnnyway, in the preface to this recipe, Lidia mentions how she most often sees celery used in stocks or salads. Too true. And I don't know what else to do with it. This recipe came in especially handy when a large head of celery came in our oganic produce bag. Sure, we could put it in salads and cut it up for snack sticks. Whatever didn't get used and got wilty, plus the ends, would go in the freezer for stock. With the organic stuff, I've taken to looking up recipes to either a) try something different or b) figure out what to do with some new thing that came in the bag. That's how I came across this recipe, by trying to find something else to do with celery.
This is actually called Celery Steamed in a skillet in the cookbook, but for some reason I keep calling it Braised Celery so that's what I call it here. Lidia recommends you use "a heavy saucepan, such as an enameled cast-iron Dutch oven, 10" wide with a 3- to 4-quart capacity, with a cover". This gave Kevin yet another opportunity to use his (non-enameled) cast iron Dutch oven.
- 2.5 lbs. celery (1 lg. or 2 med. heads)
- 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
- 2 plump garlic cloves, crushed and peeled (Kevin probably put in more)
- 2 med. onions, thinly sliced
- 1 t. kosher salt
- 1/2 t. peperoncino flakes, or to taste (I think Kevin put in a few too many; it was a little zesty; we'd test it first next time)
- 1/2 c. pitted black olives
- 3 T. tomato paste
- 2 c. hot water
- Prepare the celery: Separate the stalks. Wash and trim the stalks. Shave tough outer ribs with a vegetable peeler or paring knife, removing thick skin and strings. Cut stalks crosswise, including leafy parts, into 4" pieces (or smaller, if you prefer).
- Pour the olive oil into the sauce pan, set it over medium heat, stire in the garlic and onions, and heat until sizzling.
- Heap celery in the pan, sprinkle over it the salt and peperoncino, stire and toss, coating the celery with oil. Cook over medium heat about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, as the celery starts cookings.
- Stire in the olives, turn up the heat a bit, and sute the veggies about 15 minutes, tossing and stirring now and then, until the celery and onions are softened and caramelized on the edges.
- Meanwhile, stir and blend the tomato paste in the 2c. of hot water to make a braising liquid. When the celery is lightly browned, pour in the tomato water and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and adjust the heat to maintain a steady, gentle perking. Cook about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until celery is completely tender and caramelized and the liquid reduced to a glaze.
- Serve right away as a side dish or let it cool to room temperature. Leftover celery will keep in the fridge for a few days and freezes well.
I didn't try freezing it, although I will next time so I can see for myself how it freezes. I am definitely looking forward to getting more celery in our produce. Seeing as I work at the library, I've been using the library's copy of this book, but I might have to buy a copy for myself. I have purchased at least one copy as a gift for someone else; maybe I'll purchase another copy as a gift for me.