Category: Condiment

Preserving Some of Winter’s Vegetables in a Jar

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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



















What’s That Floating in My Soup?

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With the late-winter surge Mother Nature just served us, it seems as though we are going to have to tough it out another week or so before we really get to warmer spring temperatures. A steaming bowl of hot soup has always been comforting against the cold of winter, and this seemed like just the right time to heat some up.

It is not always practical to cook just for two people so it is not unusual to find extra containers of soup or stock in my freezer. Rummaging around this time, I found extra containers of roasted garlic soup. This soup has the consistency of velvety bisque and was inspired by a recipe I read about years ago and later found in my copy of chef Susan Spicer’s book Crescent City Cooking. Over the years I have prepared this soup many times, adjusting here and there, ending up with the recipe I posted on the blog back in December 2014 in a piece entitled Garlic Is Good for Everything, where I offered a few suggestions on ways to garnish the soup, creating different presentations and flavors. But this time I was looking to do something different and make a heartier meal around the soup. Additionally, I didn’t care to go out to the market again in the cold, so the challenge was to make the meal using what I had on hand.

Inspired by a short piece I read entitled “Gambas a la Plancha” (Shrimp on the Griddle) from a back issue of Saveur magazine, and another about Barbecue Shrimp found in the latest issue of The Local Palate magazine, I knew the bag of Alaskan spot prawns in my freezer were going to be put to good use.

Along with a powdered version of harissa, the spicy condiment enjoyed throughout northern Africa, I decided to garnish the soup with spice-rubbed, shell-on shrimp seared in a hot grill pan. To round out the shrimp preparation, I coated the shrimp with garlic jam before liberally dusting them with the harissa. To finish the dish, I referred to a very old recipe from my archives that I call a hybrid aioli prepared with olive oil-braised fennel, placing a dollop on the shrimp as they are floated in the soup.

To summarize what you would be working with here, the soup recipe as noted can be found in the blog archives, then the harissa, garlic jam, the shrimp, and the fennel aioli are featured in this post.

Harissa is a chili-based condiment used widely in Tunisian, Algerian, and Moroccan cooking to name a few. It can be used as a cooking spice but more generally it’s a finishing condiment at the table, adding a little heat to punctuate dishes such as soups, couscous, and stews. Commercially prepared harissa can be found in specialty food shops that feature oils, olives, preserved lemons, spices, and dried herbs, although it is just as easy to make your own. There are many different recipes to reference in cookbooks and online as there seems to be no one “master” recipe. The mix generally includes one or more types of toasted dried chilies, coriander, cumin, caraway, and salt, ground into a powder. Garlic and olive oil can be incorporated into the mix that results in a paste form of the condiment.

The garlic jam is just what it sounds like—a roasted spread—that I have on hand all the time. It is quite easy to make, and has many uses such as a coating for most anything to be seared, roasted, or grilled; as an ingredient to punctuate a salad dressing; as a sauce for grilled or roasted vegetables; or simply the base for toasted garlic bread.

Using one full head of garlic and a full head of elephant garlic, slice approximately ¼ inch off the top of the head of regular garlic and leave both garlics unpeeled. Place in an ovenproof baking dish, coat with olive oil, cover with foil, and roast in a preheated 325-degree oven for an hour or until very soft when pierced with the point of a knife.

When the garlic is cool enough to handle, peel and cut the root end off the elephant garlic, squeeze the soft garlic from the smaller cut cloves, adding all along with the roasting oil into the work bowl of a food processor. Along with the roasted garlic add a ¼ section of finely minced preserved lemon, finely minced parsley leaves with tender stems, and a pinch each of salt, pepper, and red chili flakes to taste. Process, slowly adding olive oil through the feed tube, as necessary, until a smooth emulsion is formed. The jam can be stored in the refrigerator, in jars, topped by olive oil for many weeks as long as after each use the remainder is again topped off with olive oil. Or it can be frozen indefinitely.


Olive Oil-Braised Fennel Aioli

1 large fennel bulb and stalks, set fronds aside
3 large garlic cloves
1 cup olive oil
Juice from ½ lemon
1 tablespoon dry white wine or white vermouth
1 teaspoon toasted and finely ground fennel seeds
2 egg yolks

Chop the fennel and garlic cloves. Sauté over medium heat in the olive oil until lightly caramelized and very soft.

When cool, place the fennel and all the sauté oil in the work bowl of a food processor along with the lemon juice, wine or vermouth, fennel seeds, egg yolks; salt and pepper to taste.

Process slowly until mixed, then raise the speed and process until a smooth emulsion is formed. Scrape down the sides as necessary to make sure all the fennel gets pureed and then check the seasoning, correcting as needed. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Fennel aioli



In this recipe Alaskan spot prawns are used. These large crustaceans are taken from southeastern Alaskan waters, sustainably harvested, flash frozen and shipped.

A pound generally contains an average of 10 prawns or less and, if sourced with the heads intact and a roe sac attached to the females, makes for a more dramatic presentation and flavor. If these Alaskan prawns cannot be found, then colossal shrimp (U8) will work just as well.

8 to 10 Alaskan spot prawns or colossal shrimp
Garlic jam
Harissa powder mix


Once the prawns are thawed in the refrigerator overnight, cut the shell down the length of the back but do not remove the shell.

Run the prawns under cool water, using your thumb to remove any particles or veins under the cut shells. Use paper towels to dry the prawns and place them on a large platter. Coat the prawns with garlic jam and olive oil on both sides. Sprinkle the coated prawns with the harissa powder mix on both sides. Place the platter in the refrigerator until ready to cook.

Seasoned prawns

To replicate the a la plancha cooking approach, heat a cast iron pan or a grill pan over high heat, adding 4 tablespoons of olive oil. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the prawns, shells and all (the shells keep the meat moist, and since they are slit it will be easier to remove them when eating). Shake the pan continuously cooking the prawns until the shells begin to char in places, about 3 to 4 minutes before turning the prawns over and searing for another 2 minutes on the second side.

Seared a la plancha

To serve, place 2 or 3 prawns in a large soup dish, ladle the garlic soup around, and top the prawns with a tablespoon of the fennel aioli and a few fennel fronds.


Any extra prawns can be used in a frittata paired with spinach or shredded into a risotto. They certainly won’t go to waste!

Along with the bowl of hot garlic soup, the harissa coating the prawns will raise the temperature of the room a degree or two more helping you ward off this last of the winter cold.

Eat well. Be well.
We can simply treat food as nothing more than fuel or instead enjoy and appreciate its every quality.