When I read Heidi's July post about her homemade celery salt, I bookmarked it immediately, murmuring to myself how simple and beautiful and clever the idea was.
While I am an enthusiastic consumer of celery root, I don't cook with celery stalks much, and only ever buy it in small quantities to flavor stock. Still, in those cases, I am faced with a fair amount of celery leaves that come with the stalks. I usually just add those to the stockpot along with everything else, but I much, much prefer the idea of turning them into something new altogether.
And it's precisely what Heidi suggests: wash those leaves, dry them until crisp, and crumble them with salt to produce an incredibly fragrant condiment* that you can then use to season eggs and salads (especially tomato or potato salads, or in this herbed couscous salad), to flavor bread (I've made really good little dinner rolls with it), to sprinkle as a finishing salt on soups, bean or lentil stews, to season a tomato or carrot juice... the list is endless.
Being thrifty is one of the traits I'm most looking to develop as a person in general and a cook in particular, and this works doubly in that direction: not only does it make use of the celery leaves one might otherwise discard, but in my take on Heidi's recipe, I'm also suggesting you dry the leaves in the oven while you preheat it for something else, to make the most of the energy it expends.
Such optimization is something I always try to do: whenever I turn on the oven I ask myself whether I have any seeds, nuts, or spices that need toasting, or lemon peel that needs roasting.
Another bonus of this celery salt recipe is that it will also lead you on the track to the crispest celery stalks available, since the health and vibrancy of the leaves are an unmistakable sign of freshness. (The same is true of any vegetable that comes with the leaves still attached: radishes, carrots, kohlrabi, beets, etc.)
Do you make flavored salts yourself? Any favorites you want to tell us about?
* The celery salt you can buy at the store is in fact made by grinding celery seeds with salt, so the texture is different, but the flavor is very similar.
Homemade Celery Salt
- celery leaves plucked from a bunch of celery stalks
- sea salt of your choice (I use unrefined grey salt from Guérande)
Pick the leaves from the celery stalks, keeping only the ones that look healthy and green, discarding the limp and yellowing ones. Rinse and dry well, patting them with a clean dish towel.
Arrange the leaves without crowding on one or several baking sheets, depending on how much you have, and slip into the oven while you're preheating it for another purpose (I was about to bake a tomato tart myself).
Keep an eye on the leaves and remove them from the oven when they're crisp and dried, but not quite browning yet, 5 to 10 minutes. Let cool completely.
Transfer the leaves to a large bowl and crumble them with your (clean) fingers, as finely or coarsely as you prefer. There will be bits that resist crumbling, mostly the tough spines of the bigger leaves; discard those.
Measure the volume of crumbled celery leaves you've obtained, and combine with one to one and a half times the volume of salt.
Transfer to a jar with a tight lid for keeping.
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