One of the things that bugs me about cooking is buying a fresh ingredient for a recipe, using only a little and later finding the withering remains in the fridge. It happens a lot with fresh herbs, I’m ashamed to admit. But for some reason, the thing that galls me the most is throwing out the wilted carcass of a stalk of celery from which I’ve only used a rib or two.
So recently, after using a couple of ribs of celery from a fresh stalk for a pot of chili, I was determined to use up the rest of it. My first thought was celery soup. Doing a quick online search, I mostly found various puréed versions. I’m sure they’re lovely, but I was in the mood for soup with chunks of stuff in it.
Then I came across a recipe for minestra del sedano, Italian celery soup, posted by my friend Lydia at Soup Chick. It called for about twice the celery I had on hand and fewer other ingredients (no chicken or carrots, for instance). I’m guessing with my tinkering, I’ve actually veered a good distance from true Italian celery soup. But I used up all the celery I had on hand, and we ate well that night. Again, not a holidayworthy meal, but a good one. Happy holidays, everyone. Eat well.
Italian Celery Soup
Serves 3 to 4
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 slices of bacon, cut crosswise into matchsticks
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large carrot, diced
1 stalk celery, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (5 to 6 cups)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
2 cups water (plus more, if needed)
2 bay leaves
1 piece of rind from a Parmesan cheese wedge (optional)
3 boneless skinless chicken thighs, chopped (about 1-1/2 cups)
1/2 cup uncooked white rice
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Heat oil in a lidded Dutch oven over a medium flame. Add bacon, onion and carrot and toss to combine and coat with oil. Cook until onion begins to soften, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and celery and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, heat broth and water together in a separate pan. (This is a trick I picked up from Lydia—you don’t have to wait for cold or room temperature broth to heat up when added to the soup pot if you do this.) Gradually add hot broth mixture to soup pot and add Parmesan rind and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer soup, covered, for 20 minutes.
Add chicken and rice and simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. Be generous with the pepper, another tip from Lydia.
Ladle into individual bowls and top with grated Parmesan. Serve with a crusty bread.
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