Carrots and celery (and chicken) in lemon and lemon rind
Carrots and celery (and chicken) in lemon and lemon rind
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Another variety of the exalted apio from the Sephardic kitchen, which gives simple ingredients like carrots and celery an aroma that can drive you mad. Not for nothing is apio considered a Pesach food; at this season, the heads of celery are large and fresh.

In the Tehran version, in Turkey and in Bulgaria, they cook the apio in lemon and olive oil. Some add lots of parsley. In my kitchen the apio is cooked with lemon, a lot of lemon rind, sugar or honey (you can substitute an artificial sweetener for some of the sugar, but not all of it, because sugar is needed for glazing the carrots) and with plain yellow chicken soup powder, which is important and has no substitutes. I've learned to add pieces of meat or chicken to all this. To be more precise, I begin by steaming pieces of chicken or chicken thighs in olive oil, and then simply add all the ingredients of the apio. The chicken becomes sweet-and-sour, with a heady aroma of lemon. A delicacy, and the chicken, of course, is not essential.

Ingredients (serves four, can be doubled)

1 large head of celery

4 good-sized carrots

Juice and rind of 2 lemons

4 tbsp corn oil

2 tbsp sugar (or more, for those who like things sweet)

2 heaping tbsp chicken soup powder

1/2 cup boiling water

Preparation:

1. Peel carrots and celery. That's easy to say, in the case of celery, but it's not so terrible: Wash off the sand and dirt vigorously, after soaking the celery for an hour in a bowl of water. Then remove the ends, roots and stalks, and using a large, sharp knife, cut into thick slices. Peel each slice.

2. If your food processor has a disc for french fries, this is the time to dust it off and use it for the carrots and the celery slices. The size is perfect and suited to this dish. If not, cut everything into cubes one cm long.

3. Remove strips of yellow rind from the lemons, and then squeeze out the juice.

4. Place all the ingredients in a large, heavy pot, cover, cook for 15 minutes, and then remove the cover and continue to cook, while stirring, until most of the liquid has been absorbed (about 10 minutes on a high flame).

5. If you want a meal of lemon chicken, begin by steaming young chickens (pargiot), cut into half-kilo pieces, in olive oil, black pepper and parsley. Steam while stirring for about 10 minutes, and meanwhile prepare the ingredients for the apio. Add a cup of water or wine to the chicken, cover, cook for about 10 minutes, and meanwhile the carrots, lemons and other ingredients are ready to join the chicken. Continue from step 4, and you have a meal. Just add rice or plain broad noodles.