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Chefs like to obsess over one vegetable at a time. In the last few years, many vegetables have graced menus, but none as much as kale. As trends come, so they go when the tide of the obsession reaches the mainstream. Last week, McDonald’s announced plans to add kale as a salad or smoothie ingredient in the near future. This is a sure sign that it’s time for a new reigning green.
Celery is quickly becoming a favorite of chefs everywhere and the gateway for its takeover is salads. "I think that celery leaves, stalk and root are underutilized and overlooked,” says chef Chris Cosentino of Cockscomb. “The celery stalk has a delicious mineral flavor to it and the root has a nice sweetness, so it's been fun to play around with the vegetable in new ways."
At his San Francisco restaurant, Cosentino re-envisions the classic Celery Victor. Originally created inside the city’s historic St. Francis Hotel in 1910, the celery-forward dish was served over romaine lettuce. The chef’s interpretation loses the lettuce and features thinly-sliced celeriac and fresh celery leaves marinated in meat stock and vinegar, alongside cilantro with crispy chicken skin cracklings on top.
Chef Brian Laird of Sarto’s in Denver now features the Insalada Sedano, a dish bringing together thinly sliced celery with ricotta salata cheese and three kinds of nuts - walnuts, hazelnuts, and pecans.
Focused on vegetables, chef Roy Choi’s Commissary in Los Angeles serves a straightforward celery plate: simple shaved celery with shaved mushrooms, Parmesan crisp, olive oil, capers, and onions.
Forget the kale Caesar; Coppa in Boston offers a celery Caesar. A riff on a traditional salad, this version plays on the vegetable in a variety of preparations, ranging from fresh celery, to preserved celeriac, and even house-made 'celery salt' croutons.
But celery appears in more than just salads. In two dishes, chef Gerard Craft of Niche in St. Louis interprets celery in unconventional ways: A chicken liver terrine comes with strawberry jam, peanut cream, celery meringue and celery leaves and a buttermilk panna cotta is complemented by celery granita. The Gorbals in Brooklyn offers guests a cold fermented celery soup while the Alder in New York City serves a celery pesto pasta.
While chefs may be treating celery as the trend du jour, the vegetable does lack the superfood status that helped catapult kale to superstardom among the masses.
A serving of kale has four times as much protein and eight times as much iron, though celery is a good source of antioxidants and folate. “The bottom line is that kale deserves the superfood status more than celery does, but they both have their merits,” says nutrition expert Bonnie Taub Dixon, RDN. “Celery is celery — not the new kale.”