Otherwise, Trash: Celery Leaves and Ends
This is a companion entry to a previous installment of “Might As Well,” the periodic “2 minutes to dinner” column about using leftover quantities of raw ingredients we typically throw away. In “Might As Well: Celery,” I shared a bundle of ideas for using extra, unused stalks of celery that typically languish in the fridge. But there remained, of course, the issue of the vegetable’s otherwise discarded ends and leaves.
The following two “Otherwise, Trash” recipes start with the same pile of chopped celery ends. I developed each for a fundraising dinner for Rivendell preschool, held this past weekend in Brooklyn. It was one way to work around a tight food budget, and still feed 150 people a well-crafted meal.
Toast Crust Celer-ade
This is a two-fold twist on a classic French side dish of garlic, olive oil, and parsley tossed with just-fried potatoes. In this case, I substitute the crusts of good bread (leftover from making a gruyere bread pudding) for potatoes, and use celery ends and leaves instead of parsley.
You can make this amount, using what you need for the toast crusts you might have on hand. The rest will keep in the refrigerator for weeks, or in the freezer for months. Of course, you don’t have to stockpile crusts to justify making this paste. It is a flexible, assertive condiment that makes happy many things.
Yield: 1/2 cup
2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large clove garlic, roughly chopped
10 anchovies, rinsed
2 tablespoons capers, minced
20 pieces whole white peppercorns
zest of 3 lemons, minced
2 tablespoons finely chopped celery leaves and tops
Combine everything except lemon zest and celery in a food processor. Puree until coarsely textured. Transfer to small bowl.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
Toast bread crusts (preferably, from a good, country white loaf) until nice and brown, about 7 minutes. Meanwhile, place butter in a bowl large enough to toss the crusts. Remove crusts from oven and, while still warm, toss well with butter until well coated and creamy. Add in generous amounts of lemon zest and celery bits. Serve immediately.
I’ll take it with gin, or without. A bright green tonic, just in time for spring.
Note: This will make enough syrup for about a dozen cocktails (recipe, below). You can cut the quantities however you like, but the syrup keeps well in the refrigerator, and the flavor improves on the shelf.
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
tops and leaves from 1 bunch of celery, finely chopped
Combine sugar and water in a small pot. Stir well. Cook on medium high heat, just until sugar completely dissolves. Add celery and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and cover tightly. Cook for 5 minutes, then turn off heat and let steep until completely cool, about 1 hour. Once cool, store celery and syrup together.
To use immediately, and for a vibrant green tint, blend the contents of the pot together and pass through a very fine strainer.
A Cocktail for Spring
* To make celery/cucumber juice, I raided the contents of my crisper drawer for raw, crisp, green things. There is no right proportion here; just use what you have and make it to your taste. I like how the celery supports the syrup and the cucumber makes it easier to puree the fibrous stalks.