Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Crunchy Giardiniera

A few weeks ago, the San Diego Press Club held its 40th annual JAwards event and those of us in attendance got to dine at the hands of some two dozen fabulous chefs. Among them was Jenn Felmley, who was serving up an extraordinary head cheese accompanied by a tangy, crunchy giardiniera. I loved the head cheese, but it was the simple giardiniera that really made me take notice. It's something I love but haven't made since it's so easy to buy. And, it's something my dad loves. I asked Jenn for the recipe and sure enough she delivered it to my inbox last week. So, last Sunday I stocked up on vinegars and made a few jars to pass around.

As you can imagine, it's a simple concept--pickle and marinate the veggies of your choice. I went traditional, opting for cauliflower, red bell peppers, carrots, and celery.

But you could go with zucchini, broccoli, radishes, turnips, parsnips... And, you can go spicy or not. Add olives. Add peperoncini. Add capers. This time, I stuck with Jenn's ingredients, but divided the recipe in two and made half spicy for myself and the other sans chiles for my dad.

In this recipe Jenn directs the vegetables be cut in a small dice, which I did. But next time, I'm going to go chunky. The small dice is perfect to create a polite accompaniment to a dish--like head cheese. But us snackers want something crunchy to dig into and you get a better appreciation of it with bigger pieces.

With this recipe, instead of plain old distilled vinegar you get three bright varieties of vinegar and they play nicely with one another with a sweet-tart mashup. Just be aware that the vinegars may not be acidic enough for long-term storage. So, keep them refrigerated from the get go and eat up within about two weeks. Also, note that Jenn's recipe actually calls for 1/2 cup white wine vinegar, 1 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar and 1 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar. I found I needed more to have enough to cover the vegetables--perhaps my head of cauliflower and other veggies were larger than what she uses. Also, as the vinegars simmer, the liquid evaporates. So, use this as a guideline. Your mileage may vary.

Jenn Felmley's Giardiniera
(printable recipe)

Makes 2 quarts

4 serrano chiles, cut in half, seeds removed
2 red sweet peppers, small dice
2 celery ribs, small dice
2 carrots, small dice
1 medium head cauliflower, cut into small florets
6 cloves garlic, peeled
3 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
4 black peppercorns
1 cup white wine vinegar
2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 cups rice wine vinegar (not the sweetened)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt and pepper to taste

Finely dice 1/2 to 1 whole serrano chile (optional) and add to a large bowl with the other vegetables. Mix with your hands until well combined.

Place the remaining serrano chiles, garlic cloves, 2 teaspoons dried oregano, 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1/4 teaspoon celery seed, and black peppercorns into cheesecloth and tie into a bundle.

In a saucepan, combine the vinegars and the spice bundle. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium high and simmer for 10 minutes.

Pour the hot liquid and spice bundle over the vegetables and add the remaining ingredients. Stir, then cover with plastic wrap and let the mixture cool to room temperature. If the vegetables haven't softened to your desired texture, you can place the vegetables and liquid into a pot and bring to a boil, then repeat the cooling process.

Place the vegetables and liquid into clean jars with lids and refrigerate. Let the mixture mellow for a couple of days before serving.

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