Not Yo' Mama's Celery Stix*: Szechuan Celery and Eggplant

March 14, 2012
2 Ratings
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

* Unless yo' mama was Barbara Tropp. Barbara was such a great chef and scholar, contributing many of my favorite dishes to my life. The eggplant here was originally in a Pleasures of Cooking some 30 years ago. It was a very popular dip in my 30 year catering business, served with our sesame crostini. One of my favorite catering memories is of a group of conservative bankers huddled around a bowl of this at one of the events we did!
Needless to say, it needed replenishing soon after!

I liked the idea of making celery sticks that had a unique flavor of their own, and I seem to have settled on star anise having a particular affinity with celery, so I gave them this star anise treatment, and then added Barbara's eggplant to partner.

LeBec Fin

What You'll Need
  • Braise celery stix
  • 4 ounces peeled celery ribs,from the narrow, top, end,1/2- 3/4" wide, and cut into 8 4" long pieces
  • 1 tablespoon minced peeled ginger
  • 2 teaspoons szechuan peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne or chili pepper flakes
  • 2 star anise, broken up
  • 1/4 cup chinese soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 big pinch kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup dry cocktail sherry
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil (Maruhon preferred)
  • Barbara Tropp's Spicy Eggplant filling; Assembly
  • 1 pound eggplant, firm and shiny
  • 1/8 cup canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 3 tablespoons minced scallion, white and green parts
  • 3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes*
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/8 cup Chinese soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1/8 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil (Maruhon preferred)
  • optional butter lettuce
  • white toasted sesame seeds
  1. Braise celery stix
  2. In a small bowl, combine ginger through star anise; in second bowl combine soy sauce through sherry. Heat small wok or heavy skillet over highest heat til almost smoking. Add oil, heat a few seconds til smoking, quickly add ginger mixture for 30 seconds, stirring. Quickly add soy mixture and stir to dissolve sugar. Bring to boil, add celery and stir well. Turn down to simmer for only 4 minutes, stirring the celery a few times -to cover all the surfaces with the braising liquid. Remove from the heat.Add the sesame oil. Leave the celery to marinade for an hour occasionally spooning marinade over. This can be done a few days in advance.
  1. Barbara Tropp's Spicy Eggplant filling; Assembly
  2. Lay eggplant on a cookie sheet with sides. With a skewer, poke several times over the top. Bake at 475 degrees F til eggplant collapses when top is pressed. Remove from oven and cool. Cut in half lengthwise, scrape filling away from skin.Chop up; should be like a rough puree.
  3. In a small bowl, combine ginger through garlic. In another small bowl, combine soy sauce through hot water.
  4. Over highest heat, heat a small wok til almost smoking. Add oil ,swirl to coat bottom and wait til oil is almost smoking. Add ginger mixture, reduce heat to medium, stir for a minute til fragrant. Stir soy mixture, add to pan and dissolve sugar. When begins to simmer, add eggplant. Return heat to high and stir til eggplant is well mixed and heated through.
  5. Turn off heat and add sugar or soy as needed. Let cool. This can be done a few days in advance.
  6. Note:*Korean chile flakes are particularly good because they have no seeds
  7. Assembly: If you want to serve this as finger food, dry the celery sticks with a paper towel. Fill with eggplant, sprinkle with white toasted sesame seeds . Serve on a bed of butter lettuce that will keep them from rolling.
  8. If you want to serve this as part of a plated meal, place the celery sticks on a plated bed of butter lettuce and fill each stick with eggplant.Sprinkle with white toasted sesame seeds.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • LeBec Fin
    LeBec Fin
  • BoulderGalinTokyo
  • dymnyno
My eating passions are Japanese, Indian, Mexican; with Italian and French following close behind. Turkish/Arabic/Mediterranean cuisines are my latest culinary fascination. My desert island ABCs are actually 4 Cs: citrus, cumin, cilantro, cardamom, and GARLIC! I am so excited by the level of sophistication that I see on Food52 and hope to contribute recipes that will inspire you like yours do me. I would like to ask a favor of all who do try a recipe of mine > Would you plse review it and tell me truthfully how it worked for you and/or how you think it would be better? I know many times we feel that we don't want to hurt someone's feelings, but. i really do want your honest feedback because it can only help me improve the recipe.Thanks so much.

3 Reviews

LeBec F. March 30, 2012
Sorry I didn't find these comments til today.Thanks so much you all. It's great to share with compassionate people. And your encouragement is very meaningful to me, so I really appreciate it.
BoulderGalinTokyo March 23, 2012
This looks like a very flavorful treatment for both eggplant and celery. Thank you for sharing a recipe from your catering days.
dymnyno March 14, 2012
I have been a big fan of Barbara Tropp since eating at her China Moon many years ago.(unfortunately,she died very young of cancer). Your recipe sounds very inspired and original. (as are all of your recipes) You contribute wonderful recipes to this site!