Celery-and-Parsley Salad with Wine-Soaked Raisins

Dousing a dish in fresh herbs is a restaurant-approved, delicious and healthy way to make any dish feel fancier, but grocery store herbs are often quite expensive. Even just a small quantity—like a small handful of mint or basil—can cost as much as $5, which makes them feel like a rather luxurious ingredient. And one that I hesitate to buy.  As a young professional operating on a tight budget that, let’s face it, I’d rather spend eating out, doling out $5 for a non-essential ingredient is something I save for special occasion meals only.

Instead, I look for heads of organic celery, which tend to have a bounty of leaves still attached. Where a recipe might call for parsley, I usually sub in those leaves, which are affordable and plentiful, without such an overwhelming flavor. They add a pop of color and freshness without breaking the bank—plus, I love the way they taste.

Easy never tasted so awesome.

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I find that celery leaves last significantly longer than bunches of soft herbs, since they’re still attached to the whole celery head. If I’m using a couple stalks of celery before I’ve used the leaves, I usually snip them off and wrap them in a damp paper towel for safekeeping in my crisper drawer. Before using, be sure to wash and dry them to remove any remaining grit.

Use your celery leaves anywhere you might sprinkle whole or chopped parsley: think of them as an excellent addition to any plain-Jane green salad, or as a topping for chicken soup or a whole roast chicken. They’re a touch tougher than a tender cilantro or other leafy herb, so I like to chop them rather than leaving them whole, unless the texture is desirable, as with sandwiches. I’ve turned them into a salad on their own—simply season with salt, olive oil and lemon and serve as a fresh accompaniment for a steak or other meaty dish. Don’t be afraid to experiment—you might just find yourself feeling as fancy as a restaurant kitchen.

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