Mirepoix and Celery
Mirepoix is used in our favorite dishes all year, and April offers its three simple ingredients at their peak. Carrots are freshly dug, spring onions arrive for their short season and celery is crunchy, sweet and a little “earthy” tasting.
In Cajun cuisine, a mirepoix or holy trinity, is a combination of onion, bell pepper and celery. The trio of vegetables is cooked slowly in butter or oil to coax out the flavors to add to sauces, soups, meats and marinades (Sofrito refers to a similar mixture in Italian or Spanish cuisines).
Celery is one of our most commonly used vegetables. Remember ants on a log? Celery sticks are a must on a charcuterie board and Bloody Mary’s are so much better served with a celery stalk sporting bright green leaves.
Mild tasting celery stalks and celery root (celery knob or celeriac) are grown from different varieties of celery, and the stronger flavored leaves of a close cousin, seasoning celery, are used like an herb.
Since the ends of celery stalks hold some of the soil in which they grow, celery requires thorough cleaning. Trim and discard the base of each rib and trim off leaves to reserve for soups or stuffings. Remove any tough strings from the outer ribs by snapping a small piece of the celery at the top, without going through the strings, and pulling the piece towards the base.
Celeriac or celery root has long been known as the “lazy man’s” celery to grow since it needs very little attention in the garden and minimal preparation to get maximum celery flavor. It’s not much to look at with its knobby, rough brown exterior, but once peeled, it reveals a cream-colored flesh and pleasant celery/parsley flavor.
Approach celery root with caution, using a very sharp knife to cut off the top and bottom. This provides a stable base to cut the rest of the protruding knobs and thick outer skin. Soak root briefly in water and a teaspoon of vinegar to prevent browning. Shred the root to use raw in salads, or slice to boil, sauté or bake.
The Orinda Farmers’ Market is open every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Orinda Way in Orinda Village. More information is available at www.cccfm.org, facebook.com/OrindaFarmersMarket and Instagram at OrindaFarmersMarket or call the market hotline at 925.431.8361.
Barbara Kobsar can be reached at Barbara@cotkitchen.com.