People give three major reasons for not eating lots of vegetables: 1) they are expensive with lots of waste; 2) they go bad in the fridge before they can be used up and 3) they don’t taste that great, particularly without a lot of cooking and work. I can’t think of a vegetable that more embodies those complaints than celery. Recipes rarely call for more than a stalk or two, and by the time you cut off the tops and the bottoms, you’ve wasted half the plant. Then it sits in your fridge for weeks until it’s all pale and flaccid because, let’s be honest, you don’t like celery that much. It’s just too celery-y.
But celery, particularly the leaves, have a fresh, verdant taste that can be lovely and unique. The first day or two after you buy your celery, pick off the leaves for this salad; you’ll likely get between 2-3 cups. The leaves are slightly bitter with a distinct celery taste, so the trick is to balance out that flavor with others, particularly sweet, salty and smoky. I sweetened up the vinaigrette with a bit of honey, added baby spinach, fresh berries and salty, smoky almonds to offset that slight bitterness. Sweet flavors are especially good at balancing bitterness, which is why chocolate needs sugar and why honey is fabulous in this vinaigrette.
The result is both thrifty and gourmet: you stretch that $1 bunch of celery by using the greens, and the salad elegant enough to serve to guests, with the celery leaf lending an unusual, almost exotic flair. Celery is also one of the foods highest in Vitamin K, a fat-soluble vitamin that is believed to help regulate blood pressure and clotting.
The only new ingredient on this list might be brown rice vinegar. It’s a sweet, mild vinegar that can be used in almost equal proportions to oil in a vinaigrette (as opposed to a more typical 1: 3 vinegar to oil ratio). It’s less processed than many other commercial vinegars, but if you don’t have it, substitute rice wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar for a similar, delicate vinaigrette.
Celery Leaf Salad with Honey Vinaigrette
Serves 1 as a main; 2 as a side
For the Salad:
2 cups of celery leaves
1 cup of baby spinach
1/2 cup of quartered strawberries, about 6-8 berries
1/8 cup smoked almonds
For the Honey Vinaigrette:
2 teaspoons brown rice vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon honey
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1. In a medium-sized bowl, toss together the celery leaves, baby spinach, strawberries and smoked almonds.
2. In a separate small bowl, combine the brown rice vinegar, salt and honey and whisk with a fork. Then drizzle in the olive oil while whisking with the fork. The honey will act as an emulsifier to keep the vinaigrette together.
3. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to combine.