Is CELERY A Super Star?

(Recipe: Spicy Celery Not-Chorizo Soup – Easy and Vegan)

Most people don’t think of the humble celery as having a lot of charisma –a nice enough vegetable to be sure, but certainly not a star. Well, they need to think again. Celery is one of the most talented and versatile vegetables you can put in your fridge and it’s best to always keep it stocked. Without even mentioning celery root, it’s homely but nutrient dense sibling, celery by the stalk has almost all the benefits that a vegetable can have:

  1. “Negative calories” – It isn’t that it has no calories (only a very few per stalk) but that the calories the body must burn to chew and digest a piece of celery is actually more than is gained from that piece of celery — hence the term “negative calories.” What more could you ask for from any vegetable? Or should I say, what less?
  2. Loaded with Nutrients – Celery has a number of vitamins such as Vitamins A, C and beta karotine and is loaded with antioxidants, flavonoids and phytonutrients. It also has dozens of anti-inflammatory compounds which helps to fight inflammation in the body. Inflammation is now understood to be the basis of many chronic and acute diseases and celery also mitigates against inflammation with its high water content (95%) and it’s tendency to alkalinize and neutralize acidity.
  3. Fiber – Fiber is now recognized as one of natures greatest panaceas in helping to prevent all kinds of diseases including cancer. Celery is very high in fiber, but still very easy to digest. In fact, fiber is one of the best supports of good digestion and mitigates against all gastro-intestinal disorders such as constipation and irritable bowel disorder.
  4. Inexpensive – More Bang for the buck! Less waste! In the US a large bunch of celery usually sells for around $1.10 to $1.70 or so, depending. That comes out to a lot of food value because you can use most of the plant except for the white, woody base. Very little to discard (don’t throw out the tops or the leaves! many uses for those!) Celery also stores longer than most other vegetables and is therefore more likely to be eaten rather than wasted.
  5. Available everywhere all the time – The price goes up and down slightly by season but there really isn’t anywhere it can’t be found (even some convenience stores manage to carry it along with a few apples and oranges). This reliable vegetable also fills in wonderfully for other vegetables you may be out of. For instance, did you run out of bell peppers in the middle of a recipe? Chop up some celery to use instead. It’ll probably work.
  6. Wonderful taste – Not too much, not too little — Celery usually has a subtle flavor to go with it’s juicy, distinctive crunch. The flavor can range from slightly savory to a touch of licorice with a hint of sweetness. It is this subtle flavor that allows celery to marry, mix with and enhance so many other foods and flavors. (In my mother’s day, celery salt was considered one of the most important all around spices to be used on everything).
  7. Celery can be eaten in so many different ways: raw with dip, sliced and minced (then added to pico de gallo or tossed into a casserole), added to smoothies and juices, baked, braised and saute’d (it cooks wonderfully on the stove), and particularly french cooks and chefs insist that celery must be in the base of all soups and stews…

Which brings us to celery’s greatest starring role — Soups! You almost can’t go wrong when adding celery to almost any soup. It has enough ‘al dente’ fiber and structure to keep it from disappearing when added to hot soupy dishes and stews. The al dente nature and flavor of celery will increase if you simply braise or saute it before adding to the soup. Or saute’d celery can be served by itself or can be added to almost any kind of side dish or casserole you can imagine.

The leafy tops and the lighter colored leafy inner parts of a celery bunch are great for soups, stews, casseroles, and stove top mixtures and medleys

And once again, don’t throw out the topmost leafy parts of the celery. That is best part to chop up and add to stews and soups. These tasty, leafy parts, sometimes from the inner part of the celery bunch (which look like ‘baby’ stalks, are also incredibly good when braised in a frying pan along with other vegetables to make a great breakfast ‘hash’ or medley: (Celery and Sweet Potato Medley is Act 2 in which celery will star — next article — stay tuned).

Now for the glorious soup! Presenting:

A pot of Celery Soyrizo Soup, assembled and ready to simmer

Spicy Celery Not-Chorizo Soup

This wonderful Celery soup is pretty chunky and almost more of a stew. It cooks very well in a crock pot or other slow cooking device if you want to make it ahead or start it in the morning and have ready after work. But it also cooks up quick and easy on the stove; nothing in this simple soup needs high heat for any length of time.

And other than a little salt and pepper perhaps, no other spices will need to be added to this soup. What with celery, onion, garlic and chorizo — that is plenty of spicy taste! That makes this soup all the more simple and failsafe.

Ingredients:

  • 2 – 4 cups celery tops (leafy upper 2-3 inches of celery stalks) and the inner leafy ‘baby’ stalks, coarsely chopped.
  • 1 Small to medium onion, any kind, coarsely chopped
  • 1 table spoon of minced garlic or 2-3 cloves minced
  • 2 medium red potatoes (or russet, or sweet potato) pre-cooked and cubed small, 1 inch or less
  • 1/2 sausage of Not-chorizo (I prefer Soyrizo – it is terrific, very hard to distinguish from regular chorizo).
A soy based (Frieda’s Soyrizo) sausage looks, acts, and tastes very much like ordinary chorizo

How to:

  1. Pre-cook the potatoes. After cooled, chop in to small 1 inch cubes (or substitute white rice). Set aside and pull up your crock pot, one pot or soup pan for the stove.
  2. Place the coarsely chopped celery, onions, garlic and cubed potatoes in your soup pot. Add 2-4 cups filtered water, enough to cover all with an inch to spare.
  3. Half a sausage of soyrizo/chorizo (or more than half if you prefer), crumble it into a small frying pan and saute it lightly with a tiny bit of olive oil to prevent sticking.
  4. Add the soyrizo to the soup pot and stir all together. Add salt (black pepper may not be needed) to taste.
  5. Simmer on low heat on the stove for 30-45 minutes, or cook on medium heat in the crock pot for an hour — Or cook on low heat in the crock pot for as long as you like. It should keep and be all the more flavorful whenever you’re ready to dish it out.

Biggest take-away for this recipe and celery starring discussion: Never again throw out the tops, leaves and inner parts of the celery you’ve paid good money for! They are practically the best parts!

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