Posts Tagged vegetarian

Relishing radishes

I think the veggies I picked at the community garden were radishes rather than turnips — they had that radish bite. But they prove that you can ferment just about anything, and that it has to be my favorite foolproof preservation method of the moment. It was one of those serendipity moments. I thought I was picking greens for soup and salads. But I tugged a whole plant up by mistake, and there was this fat pink-white bulb at the end of it. Two meals from one plant! Awesome.

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But I digress. How was I going to handle a basket of radishes (or possibly turnips), in the knowledge that only one of the two of us is eating proper food right now (the spouse is relegated to munching mush after a long-awaited hospital adventure)?

Continuing the fermentation theme of the last couple of weeks, I tried two experiments — grated and chunked — with beets for color and ginger for an extra bite. The recipe? Well, there isn’t one really. Weigh the grated veggies and add about salt to make up 1.5 percent of their weight, and make up a 3 percent salt brine to pour over the chunks. Squish the veggies well down into the jar, adding brine to the jar with the chunks, weight the vegetables beneath the liquid with a smaller jar filled with water (or brine), cover with cheesecloth and wait. I threw a few slices of ginger in with the chunked veggies, and grated a very large chunk of ginger with the grated ones. The recipes say use filtered/bottled water, but I used regular Toronto tap water. It seemed to work last time.

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The two jars bubbled away happily on the countertop for about five warmish days, and the brine spilled over into the pie plate several times, forcing me to remove bulk or pour off brine. The taste? It’s a vinegary pickle with a radish/ginger bite, especially for the grated veggies. It’s almost Middle Eastern, and I’m rather proud of how well it worked. And both pickles are a beautiful, beautiful dark beet red.

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The bonus: the greens are delicious, like Asian salad greens with a spicy crunch. I ate them in salads, steamed with butter or olive oil, with omelet or scrambled eggs for an instant low-cal supper, and then in a spinach soup without the spinach.

This community garden stuff really is quite fun.

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Read your vegetables

I’m not sure I need to cook anything from this month’s Cook the Books recipe book. I’m just going to buy the book and work my way through it, one glorious recipe after another.

You see Nigel Slater’s Tender is my sort of book, heavy on the veggies (well duh, it’s a vegetable cook book), easy on the other ingredients and totally flexible in the way it goes about things. And it’s a good read to boot, with tips about growing the veggies as well as cooking and eating them. It didn’t seem to matter where I opened the book, there was something I wanted to make, whether the grilled eggplant, the broad bean hummus or the moist chocolate cake with mashed up beets. I mean it sounds so weird it has to be worth a try.

In some ways this book, cover-less, torn at the edges and clearly well used by many library borrowers before me, reminds me of another well worn offering in my own cookbook collection, Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book. Grigson writes her way from artichoke to watercress and Slater starts with asparagus and ends with tomato, but the idea is the same. Two well-written books that work for me.

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Yes, okay, I’ll probably cook something before the month is out, but that will have to be another blog entry.

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Some like ’em not

There are people out there who can’t stand beets, and people who love them. And then there are people like me, who love beets, but resent them for needing more than 12-1/2 minutes to cook. Once in a blue moon I buy beets, roast them with olive oil, salt and a little balsamic vinegar and really enjoy them. But usually I buy them, and let them languish in the fridge for weeks. Soft, wrinkled beets are only good for the compost.

So this week, inspired by four batches of increasingly successful modified bread and butter pickles, I tried a new (for me) experiment to transform two quarts of smallish beets into something that actually lasts.

The idea was simple: pickled beets. But I wasn’t  inspired by any of the recipes I found, which meant mixing and matching from a host of internet/recipe book ideas. I wanted something spicier and less sweet than most of the recipes I found, and I did want to water bath the finished product so I could be sure it would last. I added allspice, because it worked so well with the cucumbers, and crushed red pepper as well as black peppercorns because I wanted a bit of a kick. And I threw in a few sliced up cloves of garlic, because deep purple pickled garlic reminds me of Moscow, and because it was really good. The liquid was a mix of cider vinegar (half organic, half regular because that’s what was in the pantry), and the juice the beets cooked in. That should add a notch of flavor, no?

The recipe I followed more than the others says to let them mature at least 6-8 weeks before sampling the bounty, but I’m not sure I can wait that long.

Anyone got any experience on how long one really needs to wait?

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