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Since sharing with you some stupid things I do in the kitchen, I’m finding myself in a rather tell-all mode. Don’t worry, I’m not going all truth & dare on you, but I do want to confess my undying affection for all things pickled. Since I was a little girl, kindergarten-age or so, one of my favorite snacks was kosher dill pickles. My brother and I were so into them that my mother had to keep gallon-size containers in the fridge just to support our habit. Strange, I know, but also typical of my and my brother’s weirdness as kids. (I.e., we were known in our teenage years to engage in screaming fights over whether the U.S. constitution should be interpreted according to the founders’ original intention (him), or whether it was a “living document” whose meaning would change over time (me). But I digress.)

We didn’t make our own pickles at home. That practice didn’t start for me until, after a visit to Seattle’s Boat Street Cafe and savoring a plate of assorted pickles that is a specialty of this Provencal-inspired restaurant. Each vegetable and fruit was pickled in a different brine, and I was blown away by the strong yet subtle and nuanced flavors in each. They were beautiful to boot.

I recently discovered that Boat Street is now selling their pickles to the world, not just to those lucky Seattleites, which is super exciting to me. Check it out: pickled figs, raisins, red onions, and prunes. I hope Zingerman’s is reading this.

So until I place my order, or until my local gourmet food emporium starts carrying them, I’ll continue making refrigerator pickles chez moi. Until the other day, I had only made quick vegetable pickles. I was a little skeptical of giving the pickle treatment to fruit–in this case grapes–but I needn’t have been. Making pickles out of fresh or dried fruits makes you feel like you’re tasting that fruit for the first time. It tempers and heightens the sweetness of the fruit, confusing your tastebuds a little bit but only in exciting, tangy ways. I’ve been eating these pickles with pork and duck, and I have a mind to serve them as a bold alternative to the canonical Thanksgiving cranberry sauce. Renegade pickle-lover that I am.

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Pickled Grapes
Adapted from a recipe in The Times Picayune, which I tracked down after reading about Orangette’s adventures with quick pickles

Makes about 3 cups

1 pound seedless grapes (I used a combination of red and green)

1 cup white wine vinegar

1 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

1 teaspoon allspice

1 (2 1/2-inch) cinnamon stick

1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

Rinse and dry the grapes, and pull them carefully from their stems. Put the grapes into a medium bowl, and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; then pour the mixture immediately over the grapes.

Stir to combine. Set aside to cool at room temperature.

Pour the grapes and brine into jars with tight-fitting lids (or cover the bowl with plastic wrap), and chill at least 8 hours or overnight. Serve cold. Keeps for a few weeks in the fridge, if you can leave them alone for that long.

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Enough already

carrot and radish pickles

It really must stop.

All this roasting and mashing and gravy-making, this pie-baking and eating and socializing. So many delicious and impossibly heavy meals in the space of a week has my tastebuds kind of tired. Maybe–dare I say it?–even a little worn out.

As you may recall, it all started with a pre-holiday dinner with the boyfriend’s family, which was equal parts fun and exhausting. Sunday night we played host to “help us eat leftovers night” with friends, and we sat around the table like grownups and talked politics and drank lots of wine and argued the merits of the 100 dollar laptop program. Wednesday night found me in the bosom of my family in western PA, kibbitzing over matzoh ball soup and beef brisket and carrot cake. (Because, you know, everyone needs to eat a three-course meal on the eve of a major holiday.)

Then, only then, came Thursday, the day that’s supposed to be dedicated to this kind of feasting and merrymaking. Readers, I was worn out, feeling as though I’d flexed my gastronomical muscles a bit further than is advisable. Yet I prevailed, gobbling up my third–third!–turkey dinner of the week. I even topped it off with a slice of sweet potato pie with marshmallow meringue, made by yours truly. It was all delicious, but I do not recommend this practice of so many poultry-centric feasts in one week. I trust it will be well after our next presidential election until turkey passes these lips again.

[Because it makes me feel full all over again remembering it, I won’t even go into the meal we had Friday night in Pittsburgh at a pan-Asian restaurant (I know, I know), and our feast the following day at the Haven, in Johnstown, PA, which may have some of the best bar food east of the Mississippi. I’m talking onion rings, pizza, wings, burgers, and beer-battered fries of the highest order. Oops–I mean I ‘m not talking about those things.]

By Sunday, it was high time to give up the gluttony. I kept threatening to eat nothing but broth and seaweed, but there were Tantre Farm vegetables to use up–and pretty ones, too–for which I am truly thankful.

purple, green, gold

So Sunday evening was spent on my own, making some healthy and humble food out of the bounty of our last farm share. It was soothing to be back in my own space, my impossibly tiny but cozy apartment, making and eating simple food.

The cauliflower you saw up there, in Technicolor? They’re real; I promise. And were delicious cut into florets, tossed in lots of olive oil and coarse salt, and roasted till crispy at 400F, for about 15 minutes. And eaten with fingers.

But in that bowl at the top of this post contains the real elixir–the true counterpoint to my week of indulgence: pickled carrots and radishes, courtesy of a recipe from Alice Waters’s The Art of Simple Food. They are refreshing and tart and sweet, a delightful corrective to so much over-feasting.

The recipe is super simple, and can be used with any vegetable you think would taste good pickled. (I imagine so, anyway.) I have a mind to try this next with turnips, red onions, and maybe even some cauliflower or celery. It’s also very malleable, so use what you have in the pantry in the brine — different types of vinegar, fresh herbs, or chiles would all be great. And they’re just refrigerator pickles; no sanitizing jars and canning equipment required.

Fresh-Pickled Vegetables
1 1/2 c white wine vinegar
1 3/4 c water
2 1/2 T sugar
1/2 bay leaf
4 thyme sprigs
Pinch of dried chile flakes
1/2 t coriander seeds (I didn’t use these)
2 whole cloves
1 garlic clove, peeled and cut in half
Generous pinch of salt

Combine ingredients and bring to a boil. Cook each type of vegetable in the brine, and scoop them out when they’re cooked but still crisp. Set aside to cool. Once all the vegetables are cooked + cooled, and the pickling brine has cooled, combine everything together, place into a container, and refrigerate. Should keep for a week, if you’ll leave them alone for that long.

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