I’ve always thought celery was an under-valued and unappreciated vegetable. My mother used it all year long in her cooking, back when I was growing up in Pennsylvania. It was something she could buy all year long, even during the long, cold winters. She taught me never to toss the flavorful leaves and that celery, being naturally high in sodium, was an important aromatic ingredient in so many dishes.
When I saw a recipe for celery soup in the current issue of Food & Wine, I decided to tweak it a bit for this week’s new soup recipe. I’m always on the lookout for healthy soups that are reasonable low in salt and the naturally high sodium level of celery does not preclude our using it.
The first thing I changed was to cut the recipe in half, just being a family of two adults – and one cat who doesn’t like soup. I had some leftover low sodium chicken stock that I added, and I had corn muffins in the freezer to use instead of regular bread. Trader Joe’s sells diced pancetta that appealed to me more than bacon. There was a little cream left in the pint in the fridge, so in it went instead of sour cream. The F & W recipe called for a citrus-y olive oil, but I had a good bottle of white truffle oil that won here.
TIP: I got a smoother texture using my standing blender, but an immersion blender works OK and is a less messy process.
TIP: I always buy organic celery and frequently find that the price is only slightly higher than non-organic.
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided use
- 1 sweet onion, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and finely diced
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground white or black pepper
- 8 organic celery ribs, trimmed, leaves included, thinly sliced (about 1 pound)
- 2 cups low sodium chicken stock
- 2 cups water
- 2 ounces pancetta, diced
- 1 piece cornbread, about 2 ounces, cut into 1-inch chunks
- ½ cup cream
- chopped celery leaves and white truffle oil (optional garnishes)
- Using a large, heavy-bottomed pot, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until the onion is limp but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add salt and pepper, then the celery and cook until celery is slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add the stock and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, partially cover and cook until vegetables are tender, about 25 minutes.
- While the vegetables are cooking, heat a medium-sized skillet and cook the pancetta until browned and crisp, about 8 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the pancetta and place on a paper towel. Melt the last tablespoon of butter and cook the croutons, turning once or twice, until crisp, about 3-5 minutes. Set pan with croutons aside, off the heat, allowing them to remain warm.
- Using either a standing or immersion blender, purée the soup until smooth. Stir in the cream and reheat on low.
- Ladle into bowls, top with some pancetta, garnish with celery leaves and a drizzle of oil and serve.