Sunday, October 21, 2012

Jardiniere, or Pickled Veggies

Last Saturday my mother and i went to Nordy's for some serious shopping, which we know can make one work up a good appetite.  So we popped into their new cafe which i was really impressed with.  The only thing it lacked for a department store restaurant would be the handful of models showing off the latest fashions.  (Perhaps that's dating me.  Besides, they called that a "tea room", not a cafe.) The waiter brought us a small plate with pickled veggies -- a couple pickle wedges, carrots (my very favorite pickled food) and cauliflower.  It was delicious... very mild, and surprisingly no dill.  In fact, the waiter was so nice he brought us a second plate.

Nordstrom's Pickled Veggies
We asked the waiter what the secret is, and he said the chef boils the veggies and then throws them into the jar of brine that the pickles came in.  Who woulda thought it could be that easy.  Well, since nobody knew what kind of pickles they served, and that's probably key to flavoring the veggies, i concocted my own recipe using rice vinegar, which i think is one of the mildest vinegars.  The other thing i decided to do is use Splenda instead of sugar.  I know... i probably should have stuck with the real thing, especially when you think about how little of the sugar you're actually absorbing.  Ok... next time.  But for now...

The marinade, or brine:
  • 3 cups of plain rice vinegar
  • 3 cups of water
  • 3/4 cup of sugar
  • 5 Tablespoons of kosher salt
  • spices (use as much as you want; because i wanted my marinade to be mild, i used about 1T of each of the following):
    • mustard seed
    • peppercorns
    • garlic
    • crushed red pepper
Bring to a boil, and stir until the sugar is dissolved.
Set aside to cool.

Obviously you can use whatever you want.  It's important not to cook them too long; you want them snappy.  I blanched them in boiling water, as follows:    Carrots for 4 minutes; broccoli and celery for 2 minutes; persian cucumbers and pearl onions just "took a dip" and immediately took them out of the boiling water as quick as they went in.

Other veggies to try are:  cauliflower, string beans, and hearts of palm. 

Immediately after you take the veggies out of the boiling water, put them into an ice bath so that they keep their vibrant color.  After the ice bath (as little as a few minutes, otherwise you can keep them in until finished with the entire cooking process), lay them on clean towels to drain.  I found the broccoli was like a sponge, so i gently pressed out the water the florets held. 

Put the veggies in jars... mixed up... individually... whatever way you want. 
Then, pour the marinade directly on top. 

Then you have the fun of figuring out what kind of hats to put on your jars.

Carrots taking an ice bath... quite relaxing.
I enjoyed these, although they were a little sweeter than i wanted.  Next time i'll definitely use real sugar, just not as much.

Don't forget to make your veggies an adorable hat.

Buon appetito!