Never mind the meat and carbs. Peter Meehan dials up the salt, fats and acids in his latest cookbook, “Lucky Peach Presents: Power Vegetables! Turbocharged Recipes for Vegetables with Guts.” Armed with scores of veg-friendly recipes and a few essential flavor boosters, the Lucky Peach co-founder and editor says your weeknight dinners are about to get more “AWESOME.” Go ahead. Knock yourself out with this recipe for kung pao celeries.
“Celeries?” you ask. We’re all familiar with Chinese kung pao chicken, the addictively spicy medley of celery, onions, bell peppers, peanuts and morsels of chicken. But since vegetables feature front and center in this book, Meehan and the other Lucky Peach editors skipped the meat and eventually arrived at their power combo of celery and celery root after several iterations of recipe testing. Serve it hot with rice or — if you’re like Meehan — have it cold with your morning coffee.
KUNG PAO CELERIES
Yield: Makes 4 servings
1 tbsp Chinkiang vinegar
1 tbsp Shaoxing wine or sherry
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp cornstarch
2 tbsps neutral oil
1 medium celery root (about 1½ lbs), peeled and cut into ½-inch dice
2 celery stalks, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 red bell pepper, cut into ½-inch pieces
5 scallions, white and green parts separated, thinly sliced
1 jalapeño chile, sliced
1 tbsp garlic (about 2 to 3 cloves), chopped
1 tbsp fresh ginger (a 1-inch piece), chopped
10 dried chilies, preferably Tianjin chili, chiles de árbol or a tablespoon of chili flakes
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, cracked
2 tbsps chili oil
¼ cup roasted peanuts
Kosher salt, to taste
Prepare the sauce: Stir together the vinegar, wine, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, cornstarch, plus 2 tablespoons of water in a small bowl to dissolve the sugar and cornstarch. Reserve and set aside.
Stir-fry the celery root: Heat 1 tablespoon of the neutral oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. After a minute, add the celery root and toss to coat in oil. Cook until lightly browned and steaming hot, about 3 minutes. Season with salt, to taste, and toss again. Next, add ¼-cup of water and cover the pan, reducing the heat to medium-low. Steam the celery root until nearly tender, about 10 minutes. Then remove the lid and use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked celery root to a plate.
Wipe out the wok (you’re not cleaning it; just getting rid of any bits that will burn while cooking) and return it to the heat.
Stir-fry the ingredients: Now heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in the wok over high heat. Add the celery and bell pepper and stir-fry for a minute. Then add the scallion whites, jalapeño, garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Next, add the dried chilies and peppercorns and stir-fry for 10 seconds.
Return the cooked celery root to the wok and toss to combine all the ingredients. Pour in the reserved sauce and toss to coat evenly. Bring the mixture to a full boil. Once the sauce thickens, remove the pan from heat and stir in the chili oil.
To serve: Sprinkle the Kung Pao Celeries with peanuts and scallion greens. Serve hot with rice or cold with coffee.
Reprinted from “Lucky Peach Presents: Power Vegetables!” Copyright © 2016 by Lucky Peach, LLC. Photographs copyright © 2016 by Gabriele Stabile. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.