Do you know the game “Stump the Cook,” played by the delightful host of The Splendid Table, Lynne Rossetto Kasper? A listener calls in with five ingredients she or he happens to have in the fridge at the time, and Lynne’s challenge is to come up with a recipe that the listener will actually be tempted to cook. It’s always thrilling to see where Lynne’s imagination and the (often) crazy ingredients take her.
It’s a game home cooks often play, willy-nilly, especially when grocery shopping day looms. And I have to confess (besides the fact that I’m one of those cooks who really, really doesn’t like grocery shopping) that it’s often with a sense of frustration, not fun, that I pull out from my fridge bits and pieces of vegetables, a quarter of a block of tofu, and a handful of cooked beans, and try to come up with a coherent dinner.
But I’ve made a new resolution (I’m one for making New Year’s resolutions every month) not to treat this as an incovenience any more, but to approach it in a spirit of play. The results, glorious or inglorious, I will share with you.
Luckily, the fridge gods have granted me a glorious beginning: this herbed celery and peas dish. I always have celery in my crisper, as well as a few sprigs of this or that herb. So why not put them together? Truthfully, I’m a bit embarrassed by how simple this dish is. It seems so obvious, I’m surprised I haven’t seen it anywhere else. It can’t be new. But what matters is that it feels new, and tastes it, too: fresh and invigorating, with a lively touch of crunch from the celery, of creaminess from the peas, all wrapped in the bright crispness of the herbs.
Add in some steamed rice, along with some lightly sautéd tofu or cooked lentils (drizzle on some olive oil and fresh lemon or lime juice to create a light dressing and pull all the flavors together) and you have a complete meal. I also served it with a pink lentil and sweet potato dal, whose sweet overtones played nicely against the slight bitterness of the celery and herbs. Or you can just eat it plain, for a lunch that will make you feel as light as a feather.
Herbed Celery & Peas
About 4 small servings
- 5-6 celery stalks (about 1 1/2 cups chopped celery)
- 1 TBSP. olive oil
- 1/3 cup frozen peas
- 2 TBSP. each parsley, cilantro and basil, chopped
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Heat the olive oil in a skillet, over medium-high heat. Slice celery stalks into 1/4-inch thick pieces and add them to the skillet, along with the peas. Season with sea salt and a bit of freshly ground black pepper. Cook about 5 minutes, until the peas are heated through and the celery is somewhat soft but has kept some of its crunch. Off the heat, add in the herbs.
Nutritional Information: 4 servings. Per serving: 41 calories; 3.4 g fat; 2.3 g carbs; 1.1 g dietary fiber; 0.7 g sugar; 0.7 g protein.
Posted Tuesday, March 29, 2011