Oh, summer is really here. If the heat does not get to you, the humidity will.
Well, my role today is to guide you toward a crunchy little vegetable that is really not a vegetable but is more of an herb and spice. Summer vegetables stare at you in the face but you are reluctant to pick them up because they tend to get so boring. The addition of this little stalk will create magic. Remember, it is better to use very little of this as the flavour comes on strong and nice.
Meet celery. It is always kept on the side, a little away from the tindas and doodhis. You might be surprised its Indian names: shalari or ajmud. But, in this season, you should pick up a stalk of celery once in a while and make good use of it. It is an effective stirrer for Bloody Mary all right but it can introduce a new cleansing flavour to your daily cooking.
Celery also brings to mind ‘negative’ calorie food: amount of calories in celery is less than the calories required to digest it. But celery does not have all the essential nutrients needed to stay healthy so it is not a good idea to plan a diet around it! But you can add celery as a snack food to your diet if you wish to increase the bulk and fibre…definitely a good substitute for high calorie foods. Plus the vitamin C content is substantial too.
Celery marries well with potatoes, poultry, vegetables, nuts, fruits like apple and banana and is readymade crudités with dips. In fact, a yogurt dip with sesame when chilled makes a lovely stuffing in the groove of the celery stick. My kids love it with peanut butter! I have also served it with hummus and received grins of pleasure.
While buying celery, look for firm, tight bunches with healthy leaves. Refrigerate in a zip lock bag in the crisper section. If it is good celery, it might stay for two weeks. If it wilts, place in a bowl of iced water for several minutes before use. The crunch comes back.
Add that colour
Feel free to use it in tomato shorba or sabzi shorba. A few bits of celery adds newness to vegetable jhalfrazie. Next time you make a pulao, use a bit of celery with the vegetables. It sure removes boredom from everyday khana. And of course, a tossed salad takes celery rather well too.. now here is a lovely summer recipe that does not heat up the kitchen.
(The writer is a master chef, author and television host.
Email at nquiry@ sanjeevkapoor.com) ster chef, author and television host. Email at nquiry@ sanjeevkapoor.com)