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Monday, November 22, 2010

quick-pickled fall veggies

due to a series of events taking us out of the house at night lately-- my birthday, huskies games at the bar, pool with friends-- i haven't really cooked anything in a couple of weeks, which feels like years. not only have we been eating out and bringing home leftovers, but after a time of having someone else prepare our meals, it's easy to get a little lazy about being in the kitchen. brent olsen from olsen farms even commented this weekend at the farmers market, "hey, good to see ya. it's been a while!" yes, brent, it's sadly true. because we've been ordering pizza. (and please don't make me admit that there's one in the fridge even now, as i type...)

but, i'm vowing to break the cycle, just as soon as we get through the tower of leftovers we collected this weekend.

anyway, pickles! the culinary world has gone pickle-mad, a fact i've only recently uncovered. seems most of the menus we see these days include some sort of pickled goodie, and it could be absolutely anything. pickled raisins, pickled shallots, pickled stem of chard...

we recently went to poppy, jerry traunfeld's restaurant, for seattle restaurant week. one of the small plates on the thali tray was a dish of pickled eggplant and cucumber, and it was one of the many, many standout tastes we had that night. enter my bible, also known as jerry's cookbook, the herbal kitchen, offering a chance to recreate his pickled glory at home. i made a few substitutions based on what i had on hand, including using about a quarter of the herbs he called for (as much as my little thyme plant could spare), and using half white wine vinegar and half champagne vinegar. his were better, for sure, but these were still amazingly good. they are crunchy, crisp, and full of flavor without being too saturated in overpowering acid. the vegetables maintain their original character, so make sure you start with high-quality produce. the fennel was my favorite, rob's was the cauliflower.

we had them alongside a grossly overcooked and under-seasoned pork chop. go me!

pickled fall vegetables
adapted from jerry traunfeld's herbed fresh vegetable pickle in the herbal kitchen

1/2 cup kosher salt
2 quarts cool water
2 quarts prepared vegetables, such as carrots cut into matchsticks, thin sliced fennel bulb, cauliflower florets, and cucumbers seeded and cut into half moons
a couple of tablespoons of chopped fennel frond
1 cup white wine vinegar
1 cup champagne vinegar
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups water
1/4 tsp hot pepper flakes
3 dry bay leaves
handful of lemon thyme sprigs

stir the salt in the cool water until it dissolves. in large ceramic or glass bowl, submerge the vegetables and chopped fennel frond in the brine and let sit for 4 to 6 hours. the veggies wanted to float, so i put a deep plate on top of the bowl to keep them submerged.

bring the vinegars, sugar, 2 cups water, chili flakes and bay leaves to a boil in a saucepan. add the herbs, stir, and remove pan from heat. let mixture cool to room temparature.

drain the vegetables from the brine and return them to bowl. pour over pickling liquid (again, keep 'em submerged) and refrigerate overnight. that's it!

before dinner i scooped our servings out of the brine and let them mellow for about a half hour. the leftovers stored in the brine for another day, which i then drained for good, fearing that they would get more acidic and more floppy over time. don't know if that was the right thing to do, but then again, we ate them all up in 3 days anyway!

cauliflower-- growing things farm
fennel-- willie greens organic farm
cucumber-- alvarez farm

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