I was never able to get myself hugely excited about celery; it’s a vegetable I tend to think of as relegated to a supporting role in the kitchen—the basis of a good soffritto, perhaps, but not something I would cook or eat on its own. Then I tried eating it this way—poached in salted water until slightly tender, then roasted in the oven with cherry tomatoes and crisp salty pancetta. The result is almost ridiculously good. No less so because it is so simple to make. This dish is best served hot from the oven, though I have been known to greedily eat up leftovers straight from the fridge the next day.
- Preheat the oven to 350˚F.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add 1 heaping teaspoon of salt and squeeze in the juice of half a lemon. Break the celery stalks free from the head and trim off the leaves. Add the whole celery stalks and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes, until they feel slightly tender when pierced with a fork. Drain and arrange in a medium roasting pan.
- Set a medium frying pan over medium heat, and add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Then add the onion and pancetta. Cook, stirring, until the pancetta is crisp and the onion is translucent, 4 to 5 minutes. Spoon the pancetta and onion, along with the cooking juices, over the celery. Toss the tomatoes into the dish also, then drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper, and cover the tray with aluminum foil.
- Roast for 1 hour. Remove the foil and continue roasting for another 10 to 15 minutes, until very lightly colored. Serve hot.
Reprinted with permission from A Table in Venice copyright © 2018 by Skye McAlpine. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.