Giardiniera

Summer is finally here. It was touch and go there for a while with a cool May and a wet early June. I was starting to think the warm weather would never get here.

But now the humidity and heat are upon us and I couldn’t be more glad. Bring on the iced coffee, the gin and tonics, the grilled fish, and obligatory s’mores, the sunscreen, tan lines, flip flops and sunglasses.

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I don’t cook much in the summer. Well, at least not inside. Too hot, and generally I’m too social in the summer to hang around the kitchen. I want to be outside as much as possible: at the beach, in my kayak, on vacation. When I do prepare a meal at home it’s usually something pulled together quickly, a salad or a small smorgasbord of cheese, crackers and other tidbits found in the fridge. Generally, that line-up also includes a pickle or two.

Pickles are one of my favorite things to much on when the weather gets hot. And I don’t just mean kosher baby dills. No ma’m. I’ll demolish jars of pickled okra, watermelon rind, and banana peppers. Dilly beans are  fair game, and quick pickled red onions make guest appearances. Until recently, giardiniera was a rare treat, saved for the occasional visit to Eastern Standard, which serves small bowls of the stuff as an amuse bouche of sorts. I always end up eating the whole thing and then unabashedly asking for seconds like some kind of bourgeois Oliver Twist. Hence I was thrilled when a friend gave me a copy of the America’s Test Kitchen DIY book, which contains a recipe for (among several other good-looking recipes) giardiniera.

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If you’ve never had giardiniera, think of it as a pickle crudite, a mixture of cauliflower, carrots, onions, and celery with a hint of garlic and herbs.  Better for you than potato chips, the vegetables pack that same crunch and salt blast that makes snacking so satisfying. While canning and processing pickles can be a chore, these were surprisingly easy to make and have kept excellently in the back of my fridge for months (though the ATK book includes directions on how to process jars for long-term storage). I followed the directions below until it came time to put the veggies into the jars- then I got creative and added sprigs of thyme to one jar, juniper berries to another, and red pepper flakes to yet another. You should feel free to do the same.

When it comes to eating, these are great on their own, but I also use them to dress up salads, tacos, and sandwiches. And if you don’t think you can eat all these pickles yourself, the jars make great hostess gifts for summer gatherings. Much better than a six-pack of Bud Lite anyway.

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Giardiniera
(adapted from America’s Test Kitchen)

1/2 head cauliflower (1 pound), cored and cut into 1/2-inch florets
3 carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
3 celery ribs, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
1 onion, sliced thin
4 garlic cloves, sliced thin
2 3/4 c. white wine vinegar
2 1/4 c. water
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. Diamond Crystal kosher salt (or canning salt)
optional: dill, thyme, juniper berries, coriander seeds, red pepper flakes
Combine vinegar, water, sugar and salt in a medium-sized saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Meanwhile cut vegetables, and mix together if desired, or layer into mason jars, packing as tightly as possible. Add herbs or spices if desired, and then when vinegar mixture is boiled ladle into jars leaving 1/4-inch head space. Process, if desired, or store in the refrigerator.
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