Celery is not used nearly enough. This simple preparation will have you thinking more often about celery as a delicious side dish or appetizer.
- 1½ pounds celery (about 1½ heads)
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1 cup grated Grana Padano
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 medium tomatoes, diced
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Trim the celery, and cut the stalks into -2–inch lengths. Blanch in the boiling water until the celery is almost tender but not floppy, about 7 minutes. Drain, reserving ½ cup of the -celery–cooking water. In a bowl, mix panko and Grana Padano together.
Grease a -9–by–13–inch baking dish with 2 tablespoons of the butter. Layer half of the celery, all facing one direction, and season with ¼ teaspoon salt. Then dot with 1 tablespoon of the remaining butter, and pour over it the reserved -celery–cooking water. Layer the remaining celery, scatter the diced tomatoes on top, and season with the remaining ¼ teaspoon of salt. Sprinkle with the cheese crumbs, and dot with the remaining butter. Bake until the celery is tender and the crumbs are crisp and golden brown, about 30 minutes.