- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 14, 2003

All summer long my market teems with so many colorful fruits and vegetables that I sometimes forget to notice celery. I don’t think I’m alone.

Celery, a vegetable with a multitude of personalities, is often taken for granted, but try to imagine tuna, potato or egg salad without celery, vegetable soup without celery, bread stuffing without celery, blue cheese without celery sticks or cream cheese stuffed into something other than a rib of celery. I certainly can’t.

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At one time, celery had pale white ribs because of the way it was farmed. As the celery grew, the ribs were mounded in dirt or wrapped in paper to keep out the light of the sun. The practice is now less common, and celery today is mostly bright green in the outer ribs with leafy green leaves because chlorophyll has developed.

This green celery, called Pascal, is actually more nutritious. It also has a more pronounced celery taste.

I love the crunch of celery and keep it on hand as a staple. It stays fresh several days in the refrigerator, but if it becomes limp (because it loses moisture or dehydrates), it’s easy to crisp in a bowl of iced water. This storage method also works: Slice off the bottom, stand the ribs in a container of water (I use a large yogurt container), cover with a plastic bag, tightly secure the bag around the container with a rubber band and store in the refrigerator.

The following potato salad made with generous amounts of crisp, fresh Pascal celery stalks and leaves becomes a main-dish salad with the addition of cooked shrimp or chicken. Serve the salad on a bed of leafy salad greens and garnish with thick wedges of the last of the fresh farmers market tomatoes. For dessert, serve plums in lime syrup.

Shrimp or chicken potato and celery salad

1 pound small new potatoes

Salt, freshly ground black pepper

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1 pound cooked small shrimp, peeled and deveined, thawed, if frozen, or 2 to 3 cups leftover cooked boneless, skinless chicken, cut into chunks

2 cups (about 4 ribs) thinly sliced, trimmed outside ribs of Pascal celery plus the leafy tops (about ¼ cup), finely chopped

½ cup slivered red onion

¼ cup chopped Italian parsley

Lettuce leaves

1 large ripe tomato, cored and cut into wedges

1 tablespoon finely sliced basil leaves

Cook potatoes in boiling salted water until tender, 15 to 20 minutes, depending on size; drain and cool. Cut into ½-inch cubes. Peel, if desired.

Whisk lemon juice, olive oil, lemon zest and salt and pepper to taste in a large bowl.

Add potatoes, shrimp or chicken, celery, celery leaves, red onion and parsley. Gently fold to combine.

Line a large platter with lettuce leaves. Spoon salad into the center. Garnish with tomato wedges. Sprinkle with basil. Serve chilled or at room temperature. Makes 4 servings.

Plums in lime syrup

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon torn fresh mint leaves, optional

8 ripe red or purple plums, sliced in wedges off pit

Combine lime juice, 2 tablespoons cold water, sugar and mint leaves in a serving bowl. Stir with wooden spoon to dissolve sugar and muddle mint leaves, if using, into the syrup. Cut plums into serving bowl to catch any juices. Gently fold until plums and syrup are blended. Cover and let stand at room temperature until ready to serve. Makes 4 servings.

Tribune Media Services International

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