Category: Sides

Preserving Some of Winter’s Vegetables in a Jar

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Giardiniera, (JAR – din – ERA), is the classic Italian mixed pickled vegetable condiment or salad. The preparation has been around for many years and has as many interpretations as there were the nonnas who initially made it, or today’s chefs and adventurous home cooks who have reinterpreted it.

As far as I can recall, neither of my grandmothers made giardiniera but there was always some brined or pickled vegetable included as part of an antipasto, whether it was olives, peppers, or eggplant. Perhaps that is when I came to appreciate pickled vegetables, or was it those great sour pickles I enjoyed as a kid when my father and uncle took us to Katz’s Delicatessan in New York City back in the day?

Over the years I have brined or pickled many vegetables, from a corn relish in the late summertime, to whole garlic cloves or baby okra used as a barbeque topping. Recently I charred shishito peppers in a hot pan and once cooled, pickled those as accompaniment to grilled pork or poultry. The idea of making a batch of giardiniera intrigued me though, because I could now have loads of pickled vegetables of vibrant color and texture all assembled in one jar that I could go to from time to time throughout the spring and summer.

The literal translation of giardiniera is “from the garden,” which aptly describes this tangy and colorful mix of vegetables, all gathered from the garden. The basic recipe generally includes sweet bell pepper, hot pepper, celery, cauliflower, olives, and carrots, although many other vegetables can be added depending on what is available at the market or farm stand.

Traditionally, giardiniera was packaged in olive oil, but today it is more common to bottle it in a vinegar-based brine, in which some olive oil can also be included. Initially, traditional canning methods were used to preserve homemade giardiniera recipes which, when stored properly on a pantry shelf, lasted for up to a year. Having limited experience with canning as a method of preserving foods, I simply store homemade giardiniera in individual jars in the refrigerator topped with olive oil where they will last almost indefinitely.

There are two main parts to preparing a quantity of giardiniera—the vegetable prep, and the cooking of the brine. Once that is complete it is a matter of combining both to cure for a minimum of a week before apportioning the mix into smaller jars, topping with some good olive oil, and storing in the refrigerator for future use.

Just a few other giardineria observations:

  • The tartness of the brine can be mellowed by changing the ratio of vinegar to water. I often use white wine instead of water, which adds another layer of flavor to a brine. White vermouth could be used in place of the white wine.
  • Cider, white vinegar, or white wine vinegar is preferable to red wine vinegar because the red wine vinegar makes the brine too dark and can stain some of the lighter colored vegetables.
  • Vinegar will also bleach out some of the natural pigments in the darker vegetables that will also darken the brine. If, for example, beets are included in the vegetable mix, red beets should be excluded since the vinegar will cause them to “bleed,” making the brine dark and murky looking.
  • The use of olive oil provides two benefits to the finished giardiniera: it adds to the overall flavor when, at room temperature, it is dispersed within the brine before serving, and when a jar is refrigerated, the oil rises to the top and congeals, forming a natural barrier that prevents air from getting in and limiting the overall bottle shelf-life.
  • The level of heat or spiciness can be controlled by the type and amount of hot or sweet peppers that are included in the vegetable mix. There are many options and is simply a matter of personal taste.
  • There are many ways to use the condiment; just to note a few: included as accompaniment to an antipasto spread of cured meats and sharp cheeses, or perhaps my favorite, a finely minced cup or two of the giardiniera folded into a yolk mixture which is spooned back into the hard-cooked whites of deviled eggs, or use that mince to top a crostini.


The following recipe is my interpretation of this classic Italian dish. I chose an extended list of vegetables simply because I like the mix of colors and textures, and wanted these predominant winter roots around to enjoy from time to time during the warmer months when other seasonal vegetables take over. If you are inclined not to have such an extensive mix of vegetables, the core group of vegetables would suffice, as there is a great deal of flexibility of ingredients in a dish like this.

There is also flexibility with the assembly of the brine ingredients and the overall flavoring: which vinegar, water or wine, more salt, less sugar, green peppercorns or black, the use of dried chili peppers, the choice of fresh herbs. In this recipe I chose to tie two herb bundles in the outer green of a large leek. My herb bundle included celery leaf, fennel fronds, parsley stems, mint sprigs, and oregano sprigs.

So let’s get started!




My vegetable mix was as follows:
1 each red and yellow bell pepper, stem, ribs, and seeds removed, cut into thin stripes

Bell pepper

2 large celery ribs, cut on the bias


1 cup Castelvetrano olives, because they happened to be in my refrig soaking in a little red wine

Castelvetrano olives

2 medium carrots, cut on the bias


1 large fennel bulb, cut into eights through the root end


1 small head cauliflower, separated into florets, with larger florets either halved or quartered


1 small head romanesco, separated into florets, with larger florets either halved or quartered


A small bunch of uniform-size red radishes, cut into “coins” through the stem end

Red radish coins

1 large watermelon radish, cut into thick batons

Watermelon radish batons

1 small bunch of yellow beets, trimmed and cut through the stem end

Yellow beets

1 elephant garlic bulb, halved or quartered after blanching, germ removed

Elephant garlic

1 bunch cipollini onions, blanched and peeled

Cipollini onions

1 small container of white cultivated button mushrooms, cleaned, halved, or quartered depending upon size

Button mushrooms

½ of a large cucumber, cut on the bias


1 small jar tomolives. (Not an olive but a specialty tomato grown to be pickled and floated in a martini. I had a bottle in my pantry and added them simply because I thought it would be interesting!)


Prepare all the vegetables as described and illustrated in the photos. Set a large pot of lightly salted water over high heat to boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer. Working with one vegetable at a time, except the olives, cucumber, and tomolives, poach each until just fork tender as you want some crunch; the pouching times will vary. Using a strainer, remove to their bowls and set aside. Add water as necessary and return to the simmer before poaching the next vegetable. Once the vegetables are complete and assembled, strain the water and reserve or freeze to be used later as a vegetable base stock for some other dish.

In a large glass jar(s) or container with a lid, arrange the poached vegetables, varying the mix as you go so that there is an even distribution of the vegetables throughout. Set aside.

Layered in jar


6 cups vinegar, (cider, white vinegar, or white wine vinegar)
6 cups water, white wine, or white vermouth (in this recipe I used a Riesling from NY State)
Generous ¼ cup salt, kosher or sea salt
6 generous tablespoons sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons whole peppercorns, black or green
2 to 3 whole dried hot chili peppers, or to taste (small Calabrian chilis were used)
6 bay leaves
1 to 2 outer greens from a large leek, washed
Several sprigs each, (celery leaf, fennel frond, parsley, mint, oregano, tied together in the leek green)


Add all the ingredients to a large stockpot and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow the brine to steep for another 10 minutes or so until it cools down some. Pour the liquid, either strained or not, over the jarred vegetable and allow to cool to room temperature.

Curing in brine

Once cooled, top with olive oil, cover, and refrigerate for a least a week before serving.

Bottled and topped with olive oil

When ready to serve, allow the jar to warm to room temperature, turning it over a few times to distribute the olive oil throughout and serve.

Although to some of you this may seem like a lot of work, the dish actually assembles quickly and you wouldn’t have to do it again until this time next year, giving you ample opportunity to enjoy these colorful and tangy vegetables all spring and summer.

I don’t see any reason why you wouldn’t give it a try. Let me know what your vegetable mix turns out to be.

Be well. Eat well.


Proceed as the way opens. “Yes, of course you could do this at home, and you should!” A/W



















One Potato, Two Potato . . . Easy Peasy

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Fried foods are not part of my current diet, although I have eaten a French fry or two along the trail. No, I don’t eat fried foods mainly for all the so-called health reasons, and to achieve that perfect fried dish at home requires the right kitchen equipment I simply don’t have or want. Not to mention dealing with large amounts of hot oil and a viable way of disposing it once done can present its challenges.

However, there is something unmistakenly good about the taste of well-prepared fried food: French fries, for example. I often accompany some main dishes with crispy oven-roasted potatoes, either gold or sweet, plain or seasoned with either herb or spice. So why not oven-roasted French fries?

After some initial experimenting I settled on the approach I am sharing in this post. Just three ingredients: Yukon gold potatoes, olive oil, and either salt and pepper or perhaps your favorite dry spice mix.

I chose the Yukon gold potatoes over the more classically used russet potatoes in deep frying because I learned that the oven-roasted fries achieved a tender, creamy texture inside surrounded by a crisp exterior surface. The russet potatoes were just too mealy when roasted. The creamy texture was the ultimate result I was after, although deep-frying will yield a more evenly browned finish. Looks, in this case, aren’t everything!

My preference is to dust the potato slices with one of any number of dry spice mixes I always have on hand, although a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper can work just fine as well. In this recipe I used a mix I call southwest spice—the main ingredients are ground dried ancho, chipotle, and Spanish pimentón plus brown sugar. When roasted, this mix yields an intoxicating smoked-sweet-heat flavor to whatever food it coats.

The potato slices were also lightly coated with olive oil and a tablespoon or two of my roasted garlic jam to round out the flavors of this batch.

Select potatoes that are relatively uniform in size so the slices will evenly roast at the same time. No peeling is required, and preferred! A quick blanching of the slices is the only other cooking step required as the oven does all the rest of the work.

So here you go, my take on Oven-Roasted French Fries.

(2 medium-size potatoes per person)
Olive oil
Roasted garlic jam or garlic powder
Salt and pepper or a spice mix of your choice

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Wash and dry the potatoes.

Slice the potatoes into 3/8-inch rounds, skin on, then slice across the rounds into 3/8-inch batons.

Blanch the sliced batons no more than 5 minutes in lightly salted, gently boiling water.

Drain the slices into a colander and allow them to cool.

In a large work bowl lightly drizzle the potato slices with olive oil, spoon the garlic jam around (if using), and dust with either your spice rub or salt and pepper.

Gently toss and coat the slices so as not to break them up.

Evenly spread the batons on a parchment lined baking sheet pan in a single layer or use more than one sheet pan.

Ready to roast

Roast the slices in the preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, turning the pan around half way through and using a thin spatula to turn the potatoes over.

For a little extra crispness and light char, place the sheet pans under the broiler for no more than 3 minutes.

Plate and enjoy . . . nothing more to do.


Unless you are a die-hard fried-food purist, you may never consider the deep-fried French fry the same way again.

Eat well. Be well.


If you think the time will change your ways, don’t wait too long!