Creamy Celery, Apple and Walnut Soup

Celery is like an extra in a movie restaurant scene. You need it, but you aren’t supposed to notice it or think about it much. If it stands out, you probably used too much. But every extra dreams of a big break, the moment when the director points straight at it — most likely in slow motion — and says, “Youuuuu. You’re my staaaaar.” (In slow-motion-speak, obviously.)

This soup is that moment for plain old celery.

It was born the weekend I got an enormous bunch of celery in my CSA box, a leafy, bright-green bunch that was way too big to fit in my fridge as-is. For some reason I kept thinking about soup, though I think the only celery soup I had ever eaten was a can of Campbell’s Cream of Sadness at some point in my childhood. This celery deserved better.

And it got it: a slow softening in butter with chopped potato and onion and — thrown in at the last minute — an apple on the counter that had gotten too mushy to eat out of hand. I added as many celery leaves as I could, which turned deep green as they cooked. Everything got covered with stock and simmered until soft, then whizzed up with the immersion blender into a creamy puree.

The combination of celery and apple had gotten me thinking about Waldorf salad, that classic mix of celery, apples and walnuts, so I added a drizzle of walnut oil and it was just right: a little nutty, a little sweet, with celery the undeniable star.

Celery, I’ll never ignore you again.

Creamy Celery, Apple & Walnut Soup

Yield: 4-6 servings

{ Ingredients }

3 tablespoons butter or olive oil
1 small onion, sliced
1 large starchy potato, peeled and chopped
1 medium apple, peeled, cored and chopped
1 pound celery (stalks and leaves), chopped
5 cups vegetable or chicken stock
Walnut oil

{ Directions }

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, potato, apple and celery and a sprinkle of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes, until the onion has softened and the celery leaves are deep green.

Add the stock and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the potato and apple pieces are very soft. Remove from heat and blend with an immersion blender, or let cool slightly and blend in batches with a countertop blender. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Ladle into bowls and drizzle about 2 teaspoons of walnut oil onto each serving.

Additional Notes
• For a smoother soup, peel the strings out of the celery stalks and discard them before chopping. I actually prefer the more substantial texture of the soup with the strings left in.

• A wan, leafless celery bunch from the supermarket won't make a soup that is as full-flavored. If possible, use a fresh bunch from the farmers market that is bright and leafy and that smells deeply celery-ish.

• Starting with olive oil instead of butter will make this soup vegan, but I think the butter adds something extra-special. Use it if possible.