“Nothing in the affairs of men is worthy of great anxiety.” – Plato, clearly not having been asked to bring a Celery and Parmesan Salad.
Salads scare me. Even Celery and Parmesan salads. No, not eating them. Just the expectation of having to prepare one, serve one or otherwise present one to a group. I have no problem standing up in front of a hundred people to give a demonstration on souffle making but ask me to bring a salad to your pot luck and my heart will start racing, my hands begin to get clammy, and I start will start speaking rapidly and without any punctuation while I look for my Xanax stash.
Oh sure its an irrational fear but does that make it any less real to me? Nope. I’ll be the first to admit that. to be scared of such things doesn’t make much sense. Duh. I said it was irrational. Pay attention. Salad isn’t very threatening. It doesn’t want to take over the entire meal it just wants to participate and make the meal fun. Even if its not perfect is anyone really going to remember it? When was the last time you were crestfallen because the salad wasn’t a knockout? If you can live up to the pressure of bringing a dessert then what is the big f*ckin’ deal about a salad?
Perhaps its the indistinct definition of just what a salad that is gets me anxious? Its hard to meet someone’s expectations when you don’t know what they even mean by ‘salad’. Heck, my grandmother used to put a dollop of mayonnaise on just about any old thing and call it ‘salad’.
“Eat your grapefruit salad please!”
I just gagged a little while typing and remembering that.What was up with *that* particular salad concept anyway? It must have been a generational thing thing like how young girls today think Justin Beiber is a great vocalist? Perhaps some day future generations will read today’s recipes in the Smithsonian Research Library and will question our generations taste for lifting some seeds from a third world country soaked in water into a global salad craze?
When a friend utters “bring a salad” just what are they asking of me? Maybe I’m just jittery about not meeting someone’s expectations? Are they asking for one of those leafy green things dressed in simple oil and vinegar or were they expecting a corn/bean thing mixed with a smattering of chopped vegetables? Marshmallows and Jello? Hopefully they aren’t asking for a “something, something, and shaved fennel” salad as only people who aren’t me are any good at that one.
Why is it that everyone else can effortlessly throw down some a something and something with either shaved fennel or citrus slices and create a masterpiece? Not only that, but each time they do it they et a photo worthy of Savuer Magazine. When I try it the results give off the feeling that I’m passing off scraps from the bottom of my crisper.
Celery and Parmesan Salad
This anxiety is a pathology I’m working to control and conquer in 2013. I don’t believe anybody should stand idly by and accept irrational fears, most especially their own. I’m trying to kick mine by diving in and making more salads. This one is surprisingly easy and seems to have been well appreciated by those I’ve served it to recently and it seems to go with just about everything.Its probably good with shaved fennel although I just don’t feel quite up to that just yet.
adapted from Ina Garten
This is what you will need:
- 1/2 cup good olive oil
- 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
- 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (3 lemons)
- 2 tablespoons minced shallots
- 1 teaspoon celery seed
- 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
- 1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 5 cups thinly sliced celery hearts, tender leaves included, sliced on an angle (about 12 stalks) 4-ounce chunk aged Parmesan cheese
- 2/3 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
- Whole flat-leaf parsley leaves
This is how you make it:
- At least 1 hour before you plan to serve the salad, collect your thoughts, take a few deep breaths and then whisk together the olive oil, lemon zest, 1/4 cup of lemon juice, shallots, celery seed, celery salt, anchovy paste, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. If you feel a growing well of anxiety you this would be a good time to relax for 5 minutes and collect your thoughts. I would also tell you that it is ok to put all of the ingredients in a clean jar and shake them until mixed but sometimes having a choice brings its own anxiety.
- Next place the celery in a mixing bowl and toss it with the remaining 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. (Even though these ingredients are in the dressing Ina tells us "believe me-this step makes a difference." I'd be afraid not to believe her.) After the celery has had a moment to get used to the lemon juice you can add just enough dressing to moisten the celery well.
- Cover and refrigerate the celery for at least an hour to allow the celery to crisp and the flavors to develop. Putting the celery in a large zip lock back inside a bowl is also a good way to do this.
- When ready to serve, whatever you do don't get scared. Do some breathing exercises and calmly arrange the celery on a platter. Take another deep breath and shave Parmesan curls onto the celery with a vegetable peeler. Try not to think of how many you have to do or how your parmesan curls don't have that certain unintended elegance of the curls that Ina gets. Just do them one at a time. Sprinkle your salad with walnuts, parsley leaves, salt, and pepper to taste and then serve immediately before you lose your nerve.
There. Was that so hard?
I want to congratulate Renee of Kitchen Conundrum for being the winner our very first cookbook giveaway : a copy of Dorie Greenspan’s “Around My French Table”. I hear from her that she has already started bookmarking her favorites. Stay tuned for our next giveaway coming up in a couple of weeks.