In late winter and early spring, I begin to need crunchy vegetables in an almost circadian way. My yearnings turn from the long cooked winter squashes and roasted broccoli of wintertime to bright green spring flavors that snap. That’s when this salad steps in, before the actual greens are growing in my garden. I remove the larger celery stalks and use them for mirepoix. If the outer stalks starts to look spent, move them to the stock-starting bag of vegetable scraps in the freezer. For this salad, I use the heart of the celery, the pale green, almost yellow, tender stalks and leaves. My favorite blue cheese, sharp and creamy, is from Point Reyes; if your blue cheese is very salty, reduce the salt in the dressing. The toasted pecans are an essential part of the whole shebang; I candy them but you don’t have to.
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 celery heart, root end removed, sliced in 1-inch sections, on the diagonal, leaves and all
2 or 3 radishes, depending on size, sliced thin
1 one-ounce slice of blue cheese
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons (1/4 ounce) blue cheese
2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1 tablespoon honey (hot honey, if you wish)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Pinch of salt
Several turns of the pepper grinder
In a small skillet, toast the pecans for about 7 minutes. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the pecans and shake the pan as the sugar melts and sticks to the toasted nuts. Keep shaking the pan until the sugar has melted and coated the pecans. Remove them from the pan and let them cool while composing the celery, radishes, and blue cheese on a salad plate because you are special and your salad should be pretty. Add the pecans.
Place the buttermilk, blue cheese, parsley, chives, honey, salt, and pepper into the blender and whir until smooth. Taste and add salt or pepper, if needed. Alternatively, use your chef’s knife to finely chop the herbs and, in a jar with a tight fitting lid, shake the ingredients until combined.