Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Jalapeno and Celery Chutney

This is my Texas twist on a Lidia Bastianich recipe. Yet I know there's nothing I can write to make it sound sexy. All I can tell you is, I don't even like celery and this is my absolute favorite thing to eat on my rooftop over plain old cream cheese, scooped up on crostini with a glass of wine.

The jalapeno doesn't add heat, but rather depth (I am sensitive to heat but would even consider adding more next time) and the whole thing is entirely more delicious than the sum of its parts. (Lidia even suggests serving it over ice cream - I wouldn't go that far as I think it's best in contrast against a savory component - a la cream cheese or even on warmed brie.)

And though I will keep this in my year round repertoire (it would be particularly gorgeous at Christmas over cream cheese as an appetizer) - it will always remind me of summer with its bright grassy, sweet crunch.

Jalapeno and Celery Chutney

2 pounds firm celery stalks, medium size
1 medium jalapeno, ribs removed, minced (I leave in the seeds and don't find it too hot - up to you.)
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt or kosher salt
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 4 lemons)

Recommended equipment:
A heavy 3- or 4-quart saucepan with a cover

1. Rinse, dry, and trim the celery stalks. Shave off any tough and stringy outer peel with a vegetable peeler. Slice the stalks crosswise in half; slice all these chunks lengthwise into very thin sticks, about 1/8-inch thick. Cut the sticks crosswise into 1/8-inch cubes and bits (the size of pickle relish). You should have 6 to 7 cups of fine celery pieces.

2. Put the cup of sugar and the salt in the saucepan, pour the lemon juice on top and then all the celery and jalapeno. Set the pot over medium-low heat and stir as the sugar dissolves and the celery heats and starts releasing its juices. Bring the syrup to a gentle simmer, stirring frequently.

3. Cover the pot and adjust the heat to maintain a gently bubbling around the edges of the pan. Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring now and then. Uncover the pot and cook at the simmer, stirring occasionally, until almost all of the liquid has been absorbed or evaporated, about 35 minutes or more.

4. Remove the pan from the heat and let the chutney cool completely before using. Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator. It will keep for months.

Serve over cream cheese, baked brie, or by itself as a dip.

Yield: Makes about 2 cups

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