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Veggies off the beeten path

Stalking good taste

Deirdre Parker Smith/Salisbury Post You’ve never tasted celery as delicious as local celery, which is full of flavor and crisp. Celery is more than a soup ingredient.

Summer is fast approaching, and the offerings at local farmers markets are becoming more varied. With the constant interest in eating well, eating whole, eating Mediterranean, and all those other styles,  just simplify things.

Eat seasonal.

What’s out there now? The perennial favorites, squash, zucchini and cucumber. But have you overlooked the beets, carrots or celery? We tend to think of those things as fall flavors, but they arrive in spring.

Don’t stick celery in a corner. Use it in potato salad or macaroni salad; fill it with pimiento cheese; sauté it for a soup. But there’s more you can do with it. Save the leaves to put into a tossed salad or to garnish chicken or fish, even top a taco.

And don’t you dare wrinkle your nose at beets. They are delicious and considered a super food. They are good hot or cold, pickled or sweet. They aren’t hard to deal with if you follow simple direction — and get a few pairs of food prep gloves. Save the greens to toss in with other leafy greens or for a soup later on.

Carrots, another fall-like vegetable, are superb in spring. They make a great crispy snack and serve well in salads and soups, and you can use the whole things, tops and all.

Don’t toss the carrot tops when you come home from the farmers market or grocery store. Wash well and dry in a salad spinner or with kitchen towels to remove excess moisture.

You can use those tops to make a pesto. The tops taste sort of like parsley.

Take advantage of both the Salisbury Rowan Farmers’ Market, open 8 a.m.-noon at 520 S. Main St., and the Market at the Mill in China Grove, which is open 4-6 p.m. on Fridays.

Ginger Carrot Radish Salad

2 Tbsp. unseasoned rice wine vinegar

1 Tbsp. tamari

2 tsp. pure maple syrup

1 tsp. finely grated ginger (use a microplane)

1/4 tsp. grated garlic

1/4 tsp. salt

1 Tbsp. olive oil

3 cups julienned or shredded carrots

1 cup julienned radishes

1/2 cup flat leaf parsley leaves, cut thin

Whisk together vinegar, maple syrup, tamari, ginger, garlic and salt in a large bowl. Whisk in oil. Add carrots, radishes and parsley and toss to coat.

— Healthy Seasonal Recipes

Carrot Top Pesto

1 1/2 cups carrot tops, chopped into smaller pieces

1/2 cup fresh basil, torn

1/4 cup pecans or walnuts

1 clove garlic

1/2 – 3/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Pulse the carrot tops and nuts in a food processor until coarsely ground. Add garlic and basil and pulse until well-blended. With the processor on low, drizzle the olive oil in slowly, starting with 1/2 cup, until well blended. Add the parmesan and some salt and pepper. If the pesto looks dry, drizzle in a little more olive oil.

Serve as a dip for vegetables, toss with cooked pasta or rice or drizzle over roasted carrots.

How to roast beets

This is the easiest cooking method, and it brings out the sweetness in the beets.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut tips and green ends off beets. Coat beets lightly with vegetable oil. Wrap beats in aluminum foil and place on an aluminum-lined baking sheet. Roast 45-60 minutes, until beets are tender.

Remove from oven, let cool for 10 minutes, then peel.

Beets will turn your fingers pink, so consider using a pair of gloves when peeling or cutting beets.

Deirdre Parker Smith/Salisbury Post Beets are packed with vitamins and taste so good this time of year.

Beets With Orange Sauce

4 large beets

1 cup orange juice (preferably fresh)

2 Tbsp. sugar

2 Tbsp. butter

1 Tbsp. orange zest

2 tsp. red wine or apple cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wrap beets in foil and place on a baking sheet. Bake for about 1 hour. Cool. Peel and slice.

Combine beets and remaining ingredients in a medisum (non-aluminum) saucepan. Simmer over medium heat until sauce is syrupy, stirring often, 8-10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

This can be made ahead and reheated, or served a room temperature.

— Epicurious

Want to spice it up a little? Add 1 tsp. grated fresh ginger or more, to taste.

Roast beets, slice and keep in the refrigerator to top a salad. Beets are especially nice paired with tangy goat cheese or a peppery green like arugula.

Beet and Carrot Salad With Citrus Vinaigrette

1 pound beets (3-4 small beets)

1 pound carrots

1 orange, zest, sections and juice

2 Tbsp. lemon juice

1/2 tsp. grated lemon zest

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 cup chopped parsley or cilantro

Salt and pepper

Using a mandoline or the slicing disk of a food processor, slice the beets thinly. Shred the carrots or peel in ribbons.

Grate the zest of the orange and lemon, set aside. Cut away the orange peel and pith and segment the orange, cutting inside membranes. Add to the beets and carrots.

Squeeze the remaining orange juice over the beets, carrots and orange.

In a small bowl or jar, mix the orange and lemon zest, lemon juice, oil, salt and pepper.

Mix the beets, carrot, orange segments with the vinaigrette and set aside, covered, for 10-15 minutes for flavors to blend.

This is an elegant salad that could be be served at a dinner party, or with grilled chicken or even a steak.

Italian Celery Salad

1 pound mushrooms, cremini or button

8 ribs celery, shaved thin (with a mandoline if you have one)

7 Tbsp. olive oil, divided

2 Tbsp. lemon juice

1 cup shaved parmesan cheese (use a vegetable peeler)

Salt and pepper

Flat leaf parsley, about 1/4 cup

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat and sauté the mushrooms until golden brown, about 5-6 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk the remaining 4 Tbsp. olive oil with the lemon juice and a little more salt and pepper. Add celery, cooled mushrooms and parsley, if using, and toss to coat. Gently fold in the Parmesan cheese. Serves 4-6.

Spicy Celery Quick Pickle Sticks

1 cup white vinegar

1/4 cup sugar

1 tsp. salt

4 garlic cloves, smashed

1 Tbsp. mustard seeds

1 tsp. red chili flakes

1 Tbsp. cracked peppercorns

8 large celery stalks, cut into pieces

Bring the vinegar, sugar and salt to a boil in a small saucepan. Stir until sugar and salt are dissolved. Remove from heat and add garlic, mustard seed, peppercorns and chili flakes.

Place the celery in a large bowl (glass or ceramic) and pour the vinegar mixture over. Stir to combine spices. Make sure all the pieces are submerged in the brine. Allow to cool completely.

You can also cut the celery into jar-size sticks and put them in a wide-mouthed Mason jar, then pour the brine over. Cover tightly and mix gently to distribute spices.

If these seem too spicy, cut back on the chili flakes and peppercorns.

These stay crispy two days, then last a few more, though they will lose their crispness.

Don’t discard the brine. It can be used with green beans or the stems of Swiss chard, reviewers suggested.

— Food 52

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