On the Side: Celery Salad with Walnuts

When I’m putting together a BBQ, it’s pretty common to add a side of vegetables to balance out the meat. The most common veggie side that I’ve seen for a BBQ is corn on the cob, since you can simply pick it up. But what about other options? If it weren’t for the fact that it was outdoors, most of us would go with lettuce-based salads. Having to spear the lettuce with a plastic fork seems unwieldy to me, so I tend to avoid it.

Recently I came across a simple and delicious celery salad in a Tastes of Italia magazine. The reason I liked it so much is that it was easy to eat (scoop it up with a utensil and pop it in your mouth) and because of the lightness. The red wine vinegar gives it a little tartness that will spruce up any meal. The best part of all is the toasted walnuts and cheese together – when you take a bite, the texture is like biting into a caramel. The flavors are just so amazing together. You don’t have to use cubed Parmesan; if you prefer other cheeses, then by all means use those instead. Because there are not many ingredients in here, I would not omit, only substitute.

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Photo courtesy of Tastes of Italia Magazine

Celery Salad with Walnuts
1 cup walnuts, toasted
6 celery stalks, cut into 1/8 inch slices (crescents)
2 ounces fresh Parmesan, cut into bite sized pieces
16 black olives, pitted
5 tablespoons olive oil
3 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste

To toast the walnuts, you can either place them in a skillet over medium-high heat and toast until lightly colored or in your toaster oven. I generally go with the toaster oven because it’s cleaner. Place a piece of foil on the toaster oven tray and spread your walnuts out so there is only one layer. Turn the toaster on to cook and the lowest temperature it can go (mine is 200-degrees F). Don’t turn it up any higher – the nuts are so close to the coils that they will burn if you do. After a couple of minutes you will start to smell the toasted nuts and they will start to color a bit. They will be done. To clean up, all you have to do is throw away the foil and put the oven away.

In a large bowl, combine walnuts, celery, cheese and black olives. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar and oregano. Toss with salad, taste for salt and pepper and serve. Makes 4 servings.

Here’s the finished result when I served it.

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