Celery can be very tasty if it is prepared well. Here is an easy way to make it and a way to get people who are not “celery lovers”, to enjoy it. The combination of fennel, celery and almonds makes a flavorful threesome that boosts this tasty dish. It makes a delicious appetizer, side dish, a light lunch, when served with a salad, a hearty breakfast with a dollop of sour cream, yogurt, berries or even jam. You can also form them and deep fry as croquets and if you have some leftover batter it is easy to bake a crustless Quiche. Try and enjoy! —Kukla
12 to 14 medium size cakes
• 1 medium head celery, about 12-14 stalks, trimmed, washed and cut 1/4-inches slices, leaves reserved
• 1 medium fennel bulb, cut in half, cored and thinly sliced
• 1 medium onion, diced
• 2 large garlic cloves, finely diced
• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 2 tablespoons all- purpose flour
• 2 cups whole milk
• 2-3 star anise
• 1/4 teaspoon of freshly crated nutmeg or mace powder
• Sea or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
• 1 extra large egg, lightly beaten
• 3/4 cup lightly toasted almonds,coarsely ground
• 2-3 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan or any cheese of your choice
• 3/4 cup Panko bread crumbs + more for rolling the cakes
• Canola or any light oil for frying
For the Quiche
• 3 extra large eggs, beaten
• 1 1/2 cups homemade or purchased whole milk Ricotta
• About 1 1/4 cups the Celery-Fennel and Almond batter
• 2 tablespoons Panko bread crumbs, for the top
• 2 tablespoons cheese of your choice, for the top
In a saucepan bring the milk to a boil; remove from heat, add star anise and nutmeg; cover and let steep for 10-15 minutes; then strain into a measuring cup.
In a large sauté pan melt the butter, add onion and garlic, salt and pepper; sauté, mixing with a wooden spoon, over medium-low heat until softened, fragrant and translucence, about 8 to 10 minutes. Mix-in flour and cook, stirring, for 5 more minutes or until foamy and the flour is dissolved.
Slowly whisk in the milk, bring to simmer and add celery and fennel.
Cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, for 30 minutes or until celery and fennel are just softened but not mushy, and the milk is absorbed completely.
Cool to room temperature, taste for seasoning, add salt and pepper, if needed; then mix-in the egg, almonds, cheese, Panko and chopped celery leaves.
Line a tray with parchment or wax paper, form the cakes and lightly roll them in Panko bread crumbs. Transfer to refrigerator and chill for a couple of hours.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a non-stick large skillet on medium heat, place 4- 5 cakes and fry for about 3-4 minutes per side until golden brown, if needed, add some more oil before adding next portion of cakes. Drain on paper towels and serve hot.
To make the Quiche: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a pie round baking dish.
In a mixing bowl beat eggs, stir in Ricotta; then the Celery-Fennel and Almond batter. Pour into prepared baking dish, smooth the top. Sprinkle with Panko and cheese. Bake for about 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown.