As much as I try to plan ahead and try to buy only what I need for the week’s meals, I can’t help being lured in by the beautiful fruits and vegetables that fill the tables at our farmers market and often buy more then I can use in a week. On top of this, I am terrible at using up leftovers and always feel guilty when I have to toss something away because it was forgotten in the back of my refrigerator. Just by chance, I recently discovered an easy and delicious way to take advantage of my lack of will power.
I was getting ready to go out of town for a few days and decided it would be a good idea to clear the old food out of my refrigerator so that I didn’t come home from my trip to any new pets. (I already have dogs, cats and my nephew’s odd menagerie of saltwater creatures.) In clearing out, I discovered that I had quite a collection of vegetables I had not used, but which were too good to toss in the green trash bin. There was no way that I was going to be able to use most of the vegetables before I left, and there was little room left in my schedule for cooking up a bunch of soup so they wouldn’t go to waste.
My treasures included kohlrabi, cauliflower, carrots, celery and fennel, as well as a few tomatoes. I had leant my dehydrator to a friend so couldn’t dry the tomatoes, and even if I had had it, dehydrated cauliflower just didn’t sound appealing. What to do with all of these veggies? Giardiniera came to mind (basically cauliflower, carrots and celery with some peppers and herbs to spice it up a bit preserved in oil and vinegar). It is simple, a great way to use up leftover vegetables, it keeps for a long time, and making it would fit into my schedule, but that still left the fennel, kohlrabi, and tomatoes.
Not being one to stick to a recipe, I decided to throw everything except the tomatoes, which I decided to roast in the oven and save for pasta sauce or pizza, into the mix. It would also give me an opportunity to experiment with some salad herbs that I had acquired from the market’s newest addition, World Flavors Spice Company. I didn’t need to worry about eating the giardiniera before I left because it takes about a week for it to reach its full flavor and it gave me something to look forward to when I got home.
Giardiniera is a great thing to have around. It is delicious on its own as a healthy snack (hey, it’s vegan and raw), is great thrown into a salad, as part of an antipasto platter, and my favorite, chopped up and put into a sandwich. The oil and vinegar that the vegetables sit in is also delicious drizzled on a sandwich and can be use as dressing for a salad. The colors of the vegetables are beautiful and if put into clear glass jars makes a beautiful gift.
After arriving home, my first snack was a plate of the giardiniera. I am happy to report that the fennel and kohlrabi were great additions and I will definitely use them again. I might even try throwing the tomatoes in next time. Now, when I have leftover vegetables, I won’t have to feel guilty about throwing them away, I’ll only have to feel guilty about not wanting to share my delicious giardiniera with anyone.
Here is my basic recipe based on one from Cathy Barrow and can be found on her blog, Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Kitchen and in the New York Times. If you are feeling adventurous and want to make a really special mix head over to World Flavors and tell Brian you need a bag of his Salad Herb Mix. Substitute 2 tablespoons of this for the oregano for something different and special.
Makes about 5 quart jars
4 Serrano or small jalapeno chilies thinly sliced, you can also use dried chilies and add them later after you have salted the vegetables
2 large sweet red peppers or 4 smaller ones, here I like lipstick peppers when I can get them, cut into ½ inch pieces
2 celery stalks, sliced
2 carrots, sliced
1 medium kohlrabi, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 large fennel bulb, green part removed and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 medium head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
½ cup salt
4 cloves of garlic, sliced
2 tablespoons dried oregano or 2 tablespoons World Flavors Salad Herb Mix
1 - 2 teaspoons dried red pepper flakes, depending on how spicy you want your mix
1 teaspoon celery seed
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup olive oil, don’t use extra virgin
1 cup grape seed, safflower or canola oil
In a large bowl mix the vegetables, not including the garlic, with the salt. Cover the vegetables with water. Cover the bowl and let sit for a minimum of 8 hours, or overnight. Drain the vegetables and rinse thoroughly to remove the salt.
In the meantime, make the dressing. In a large jar or bowl mix the garlic, herbs, vinegar and oil. Shake or whisk until the dressing has emulsified.
If using dried chilies instead of fresh, place one small chili in each jar. Pack the vegetables tightly into sterilized jars (this can be done by running them through the dishwasher or plunging into boiling water for 10 minutes) and pour the dressing over. You should have enough, if not, make a bit more so that each jar is full to the top.
Screw the lids tightly onto the jars and set in the refrigerator. Let your giardiniera sit for about one week before using.