Monthly Archives: July 2011

DIY Easy Italian Giardiniera


One of the first places recommended to us when we moved to Boston was Russo’s – a top grocery destination in Watertown. They have every piece of produce you can think of, as well as homemade breads, local cheeses, and prepared desserts. And the prices are very reasonable.

This spring at Russo’s I picked up a tub of something called Giardiniera because it looked like pickled veggies, and hey, I love anything pickles. This stuff was awesome! Sour and spicy and crisp. A little googling and I found a description:

Giardiniera is an Italian or Italian-American relish of pickled vegetables in vinegar or oil. Italian giardiniera is also called “sotto aceti”, which means “under vinegar”, a common term for pickled foods. It is typically eaten as an antipasto or with salads.

I guess there’s a Chicago version that’s spicier and oilier and used as a sandwich condiment. Read’s tried it and says it’s good. I wanted to make the Russo’s kind though, so I found a recipe for homemade giardiniera on The Parsley Thief.

I changed the recipe slightly by adding more hot peppers and by boiling the vinegar/water/salt solution prior to pouring it into the jars. The pre-boiling is how I make fridge pickles, and I think it helps give the veggies an extra infusion of flavor without sacrificing crispness.

Easy Italian Giardiniera
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 bunch of fresh carrots
1 head of cauliflower
1 onion
2 cucumbers
1 bunch fresh dill
8 cloves garlic
a dozen small dried hot peppers
3 cups white vinegar
3 cups water
6 tablespoons pickling salt

1. Chop up and wash assorted veggies.
2. Wash and dry 8 pint mason jars (I reused a couple Claussen jars too). Drop 1 clove of garlic, a couple sprigs of dill, and 2-3 dried hot peppers into each jar.
3. Pack jars full of chopped veggies.
4. Boil vinegar, water, and salt over the stove. Ladle into jars and seal. Let the jars cool and then store them in the fridge.

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We were supposed to wait a week before breaking into the stash, but I only lasted 12 hours. Mmmm this stuff is really tasty! I just eat it out of the jar. I think it would be good alongside something hot and oily like french fries, but then again, I think about everything is good with french fries.

I will sign off here with some furry cuteness. It’s cooled off enough that we can rely on box fans and open windows again. Edith watches the neighbors’ comings and goings from the kitchen.

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Garlic Scape Pesto

Today the NYTimes reported that 1,400 heat records were broken across the country. As a kid this would’ve been the kind of week where we played in the basement and then slept on the porch. My coworker said they used to stick their feet in buckets of cold water and go to the movies (not at the same time). What’s your tactic for sticking out a heat wave?

My rule is NO KITCHEN HEAT. Maybe some flame for the morning coffeepot, but definitely no dinnertime stove or oven. This week we got two bunches of garlic scapes in our CSA, and after googling them to find out what they were, I set about finding a heat-less recipe for them.

Garlic Scapes

Pesto seemed to be the big winner. Most recipes called for blending the scapes with basil, and guess what else came in the CSA? Perfect. My pesto is an amalgamation of recipes from Soup Addict, The Hungry Mouse, and SkinnyTaste.

Garlic Scape Pesto

1 bunch of basil, washed and patted dry

12-15 garlic scapes, flower buds cut off and roughly chopped

1/2 cup of olive oil

1/2 cup pine nuts

1/2 – 1 cup shredded parmigiano cheese

salt to taste

The food processor I used isn’t big or powerful, so this is as smooth as I could get. A better processor could provide a creamier consistency. Just blend the basil and scapes until they’re paste-like, slowly add the oil so it emulsifies, then add the pine nuts and cheese and pulse til smooth. Salt to taste.

Garlic Scape Pesto

Garlic Scape Pesto

Tomato Cages

As we ate I surveyed the heat’s toll on our balcony garden. There’s bad news and good news. I’ll start with the bad news first: I’ve thrown in the towel on the pallet garden. It’s been a long slow demise, and this heat is the final nail in the coffin. I don’t think I made a good soil choice; the plants have remained stunted and the flowers that do emerge wither and die instead of bear fruit. Also – and I’ve complained about this before – it’s very difficult to water. I about have to lay it flat every time I want to give it a good soak. Goodbye pallet garden :(

Last Chapter

The other containers are better. I harvested several bowls full of peas before replacing the plants with a cucumber start and it’s spreading along the railing. Tomatoes are ripening. Basil is getting taller. The potatoes are still going bonkers, but I’m a little nervous because when I dig around in the box I can’t seem to locate any baby potatoes. Am I right to be worried?

Cucumber
Tomatoes
Basil
Potatoes in a box

Everything wonderful happens here

I thought my Plain & Simple Pullover would be finished and blog-able by now, but there’s been a hold up on the buttons. Namely that I keep forgetting to go to Ben Franklin. In the meantime, some fun wonderful-ness from life and the internets:

(clockwise, starting with top left)

1. We’re visiting Oregon pretty soon. This means reunions with family, friends, and favorite eats (chicken at Plaza Latina & Che burrito at Laughing Planet).

2. It’s pickle season. There’ve been a lot of pickle-related searches popping up in my blog dashboard, and if the searchers know what’s good for them they’ll try No-Canning Quick Pickles. My latest Sunset magazine had a recipe for sweet & sour that looked tasty. Do you have any other recipe suggestions? I put in an order for 10-15 lb. of baby cukes from our CSA farmer..should be here post-Oregon for a big pickle making party.

3. O-H! (this is a buckeye call and response…you are supposed to yell “I-O!”) I want this necklace. The seller has lotsa’ states for showing your respective pride.

4. The images in this article on improvisational quiltingare so good I want them poster-sized and hung in my future hypothetical studio.

5. Have you visited Dear Photograph yet?

6. This could go in an entryway, like the updated version of that country cross-stitch sampler “Home Sweet Home”…but even better would be a pocket-sized affirmation as reminder that, wherever you are, everything wonderful happens here.

 

To the airport!

In about a half hour I’ll be driving to Boston Logan to pick up Read! Six weeks went pretty fast, all in all. My summary of the time away, for all those who asked, was “it was kinda fun to have the house to myself…until it wasn’t.”

I’ve almost finished my Read’s-Away project: the Plain & Simple Pullover made from reclaimed yard sale wool.

Plain & Simple Pullover progress

Trying on the sweater is disgustingly uncomfortable because we’re in the middle of a little July heat wave. The pets are sprawled all over the floors, nobody has any energy, and I refuse to make any meals that require heat. It’s time to give up and lug the window air conditioners up from the basement.

Samson

p.s. Thank you guys for your kind words about Samson’s failed flying lesson. I realized Monday that he’s missing an entire toenail, but a toenail is still a pretty cheap price for such a high fall. More than a few neighbors have stopped me to ask about him – it’s a really nice block we live on. The balcony window is definitely staying closed.

Old dog, new tricks

I came home from the grocery yesterday afternoon and Samson was gone. After I checked every hiding spot in the apartment, I started to panic. How does a dog disappear from a 2nd story apartment?┬áHe wasn’t with the neighbors, nobody else has a key, he wasn’t in the stairwells…

I keep the window to the balcony open so the cats can sit out there. Did somebody break in? But why would they only take a dog? More panic.

I called the police to report a missing dog, and after hearing about the open window they sent an officer. She came to the same conclusion – didn’t look like a break in. She asked if Sam would jump from the balcony. No way. He’s old and cautious. Plus, if he did I would think he’d be lying at the bottom.

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But then I talked with the neighbor. While I was out he’d heard yelping, like a hurt animal. When he went outside to investigate he saw a small dog running down the street. So Sam had jumped. But he was running…that seemed good.

I called shelters and animal hospitals. I biked the neighborhood whistling and calling. Sam has a wonderful sense of direction and always returns home from his adventures, but I couldn’t shake the dread that he was hurt somewhere. Read called on Skype from Mexico for what he thought would be pleasant conversation, only to find me crying as I canvassed the neighborhood.

And then, at 1am this morning, there was Sam. Whining at the front door. He seems no worse for the wear. Why on earth would he jump? My only guess is that, knowing how much he hates delivery people, someone came knocking at the door and Sam decided to protect the house at all costs. What am I gonna do with this dog.

Down by the boardwalk

Me and my sunburn are lying in front of the box fan, nursing a beer and reminiscing on a July 4th so awesome it feels like a dream.

I’m part of a friend group that goes back to high school (for some of us, grade school). We’ve scattered to the far corners of the country and back again, so over the past decade even partial reunions have been a rare and treasured thing.

Last weekend the fates aligned and four of us (+partners, +Samson) converged at Meg’s apartment in Atlantic City. We leapt into saltwater waves, passed out on beach blankets, ate pizza with clam sauce, drank beers in the backyard, and referenced inside jokes that pre-date Y2K. What makes old friendships so validating?

Atlantic City - 4th of July

Then yesterday afternoon I had to make a tough call: leave town at a reasonable hour and miss friends and fireworks, or stay for fireworks and get up at 3am for a 6 hour pre-dawn drive to work.

I consulted Samson, still recovering on the couch from a 48 hr. bender with all-you-can-eat-casino-buffets and blackjack. He’s always been the sort to push all the chips on the table, so we did our last night up right.

I took these with my new Lumix, set to 3200 ISO and +2/3 exposure.

Atlantic City - 4th of July

Atlantic City - 4th of July

Atlantic City - 4th of July

Atlantic City - 4th of July

Atlantic City - 4th of July

Atlantic City - 4th of July

Atlantic City - 4th of July