Pecorino Romano perks up this fresh and healthy delight
Looking for a dish with crisp, sunny flavor—one that can make you forget winter’s gloom? This classic Italian Celery and Mushroom Salad is just the thing.
Mushrooms and celery always play nicely together when dressed with olive oil and lemon juice. But mix in some Pecorino Romano cheese, and look out flavor explosion!
This salad takes just minutes to make. So it’s perfect for a weekday meal. But it’s also delectable enough for a weekend dinner party. Don’t you just love it when recipes are that accommodating?
Recipe: Italian Celery and Mushroom Salad
One of the best things about salads is their flexibility. Once you learn a couple of techniques and some basic recipes, you can mix and match ingredients to create endless new variations. For example, this Italian Celery and Mushroom Salad is quite similar to the Spinach Salad with Parmesan that we posted about a few years ago. Same procedure, but here we substitute celery and mushrooms for spinach, and Pecorino Romano for Parmesan.
I first learned about this salad years ago from reading Jeff Smith’s The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Three Ancient Cuisines: China, Greece, and Rome. He identified the dish as a specialty of the famous Savini Restaurant in Milan. Martha Rose Shulman has published a nearly identical recipe in Mediterranean Harvest, where she says the salad is a specialty of the Veneto region of Italy (which is to the east of Milan).
BTW, the ingredient quantities I list here are just a guideline, not gospel. So adjust according to your taste.
This recipe takes no more than 10 minutes or so to make.
The recipe serves 4 (and is easily halved or doubled). It’s best made right before serving, although you can chop the celery and mushrooms ahead of time.
- ~7 ribs of celery, preferably from the heart (about 2 cups when chopped), plus some celery leaves (see Notes)
- ~½ pound crimini or white button mushrooms
- ~1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (better quality oil makes a tastier salad)
- juice of 1 lemon (a bit less than 2 tablespoons; but this is very much to taste)
- ~2 ounces grated Pecorino Romano cheese (better quality cheese makes a better salad; reserve a bit of cheese for garnish)
- ~2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- salt to taste (start with a few pinches of kosher salt—or just a couple pinches if using regular table salt)
- freshly ground black pepper to taste (start with a few grinds of pepper)
- garnish of additional Pecorino Romano or parsley (optional)
- Wash and trim the celery. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the fibrous strings off the outer part of the celery—the convex surface—if necessary (it often isn’t when using celery from the heart, though it is when using the tougher outer ribs). Cut the celery crosswise as thinly as possible (you can use a mandoline, although I never bother).
- Clean and slice the mushrooms: Using a damp paper towel, brush any dirt off the mushrooms (or wash and dry them if they look too dirty to clean with a towel). Cut the stems off the mushrooms and discard them (or reserve for another use, such as making soup stock). Slice the mushroom caps as thinly as possible.
- Add the sliced celery and mushroom caps to a mixing bowl—one large enough for tossing the ingredients properly. Drizzle in most of the olive oil (reserving a bit until you see how much is needed). Toss the celery and mushrooms until they are well coated with olive oil. Add additional oil if necessary.
- Juice the lemon and add most of the juice to the mixing bowl (reserve a bit until you taste the salad). Toss the salad until the juice is well incorporated, then taste. Add more lemon juice if necessary.
- Grate the Pecorino Romano cheese (I use a microplane) and chop the parsley. Add about ¾ of the grated cheese to the mixing bowl. Toss the salad, then add the parsley. Toss again, and taste. Now add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
- Plate the salad, and garnish with the remaining grated Pecorino Romano cheese. Add an additional garnish of chopped parsley or whole parsley leaves, if desired.
- This salad is best when made with the celery heart (i.e., the pale inner ribs)—though you can include a few outer ribs if necessary. Just be sure to slice the outer ribs very thinly.
- Do include at least a few celery leaves in this salad—they add loads of nice flavor.
- You can substitute Parmesan cheese for Pecorino Romano if you prefer. But in either case, make sure you’re buying high quality imported Italian cheese.
- Some cooks like to shave cheese into thin ribbons for this salad. I prefer grating, but cheese ribbons taste good too (and look nice).
- Just to repeat myself: Use the highest quality extra virgin olive oil available to you in this salad. Better oil makes a better salad.
- I suppose you could substitute good quality wine vinegar for lemon juice if you’re out of lemons. But lemon juice is so good in this dish!
- If you want to see another take on this salad, check out Greg Henry’s recent post on SippitySup.
“Who knew celery had such great flavor?” asked Mrs. Kitchen Riffs.
“As we discovered with that wonderful Celery, Corn, and Bacon Chowder we posted about earlier this week,” I said.
“Glad we’re making celery our veggie of the year,” said Mrs K R. “It’s been neglected for so long.”
“Yeah, down at the bottom of the vegetable bin,” I added. “With just some wilted lettuce to keep it company.”
“And carrots poking it in the ribs,” said Mrs K R.
“No wonder it keeps its heart hidden,” I said. “Should we invite it to dinner?”
“Of course,” said Mrs K R. “But maybe we should butter it up a bit first.”
You may also enjoy reading about:
Celery, Corn, and Bacon Chowder
Spinach Salad with Parmesan
Shaved Artichoke and Mushroom Salad
Chopped Kale Salad with Creamy Lemon Dressing
Salade Frisée aux Lardons
Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad with Hot Bacon Dressing
Or check out the index for more recipes