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Celery is the quintessential 21st century diet food. According to Snopes.com, celery is actually a source of negative calories-meaning it takes more energy to digest than it releases to the body (6 calories per 8 inch stalk).

Of course, if you eat fried celery, you won’t reap the same diet benefits. But I am here to tell you that the old adage is true-everything tastes better fried, including celery!

This recipe caught my attention during one of my rushed dinner recipe hunts-you know, when you’ve come home from work and you have about 30 minutes to get food on the table. I had celery in the crisper and no desire to eat it plain! The thought of frying it was… intriguing! It comes from the Boston Cooking School Cook Book, published in 1896 by Fannie Merritt Farmer. Fannie was among the first cookbook authors to discuss nutritional concerns and to write her recipes with simple instructions (more on her cookbook in a later blog post).

I did the recipe almost exactly as printed. Here is Fannie Farmer’s recipe:

• 8 stalks of celery cut in three-inch pieces
• salt and pepper
• batter

Put celery in water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for about 10 minutes or until soft. Drain.

Meanwhile, make the batter (referred to as “Batter III in Farmer’s book) by sifting together 1 cup flour, 2 teaspoons of baking powder, and ¼ teaspoon salt. Mix in 2/3 cup milk and one egg, lightly beaten.

Heat a cup of oil (I used olive oil-hey, I tried to be a little healthy!). To test if the oil is ready for frying, take a tiny bit of batter on the end of a fork and drop it into the oil. If it fries up quickly, you’re ready!

Dip celery in batter and drop into oil. Flip with slotted spoon after about two minutes of frying time. Take out of oil and drain when both sides are golden brown.

Fannie Farmer recommends serving your fried celery with a lovely tomato sauce. Here is her recipe:

Tomato Sauce I (without Stock) Ingredients
• 1/2 can tomatoes or 1 3/4 cups fresh stewed tomatoes
• 3 tablespoons butter
• 2 1/2 tablespoons flour
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1/8 teaspoon pepper

Cook onion with tomatoes fifteen minutes, rub through a strainer, and add to butter and flour (to which seasonings have been added) cooked together. If tomatoes are very acid, add a few grains of soda.

I changed the recipe slightly. Here is my version:

• 1 can diced tomatoes with juice
• ½ sweet yellow onion, diced
• 1 teaspoon dried herb mix (I used Herbs De Provence from Penzey’s Spices)
• 2 tablespoons flour
• ¼ teaspoon pepper

Cook onion with tomatoes and dried herb mix for fifteen minutes.

Add flour and pepper, mix well and keep warm on low heat.

My daughters and I love this recipe-and four fried stalks with tomato sauce are only 127 calories, less than a serving of commercial mashed potatoes! It’s a fun dish to serve for guests, because it’s unexpected.

Next blog post: A vintage recipe to ring in a New Year!
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