Lately I have been bracing myself for the onslaught of summer produce that I know is on its way. I can see it each time I walk outside, the garden has entered a full on frenzy. Our tomato plants are working overtime to peek over the top of our six foot fence. The cucumbers have hatched a sinister plot to overtake the pepper plants, who I have to defend daily from suffocation by wandering tendril. The cantaloupes are mapping out an escape plan, vines creeping through their chicken wire cage out onto the driveway. And our cilantro has shot up like a confused Christmas tree, proud, towering and yet, strangely frazzled.
Next year we may need a larger plot to give our bounty ample room. And yet, even as I plan a bigger an better schema for next summer, I have no idea how we will make our way through the bushels and baskets of tomatoes the garden will bestow upon us, let alone the gaggle of cucumbers and armfuls of watermelon. Oh, and did I forget to mention, the weekly boxful of beautiful produce from our local CSA? It is going to be a busy summer.
I have already admitted defeat. The white flag is up, I know we simply cannot keep pace with the amount of veggies pouring in, and so, I will turn to the old methods of preserving and pickling. Putting up the wares we cannot consume in time. This summers posts will surely be full of recipes for pickles, jams, sauces and pastes. As I learn from my own experiments, I will share with you all the insight I gain on how to make the summers bounty stretch into the winter.
And so, without further ado, I give you the first installment in a series of summer preservation techniques. This one could not be more straight forward, it is derived from an old school recipe for pickled beets but could not be further from the squishy sugary salad bar fare found in grocery stores and low end buffets across America. The ginger brings a brightness to these semi sweet pickles that drives it into an entirely different direction. Be careful not to overlook the beets, too hard and they will be unpalatable, but they need a bit of bite to provide toothsome texture and to preserve their beautiful earthy flavor.
I have included some pieces of chopped beet stem in the recipe below, it is likely that you will need to buy beets with the greens to accomplish this. Simply snip off the beet greens and reserve them for another use. The greens taste great julienned (around 1″ width to the julienne) and sautéed in olive oil with a hint of minced garlic or, you guessed it, ginger. They are far more tender than collards, and slightly more so than Kale, so when sautéing them, tread lightly, or they will be reduced to overlooked mush.
Ginger Pickled Beets
4-5 Medium Beets With Stems
3 Inch Piece of Ginger Peeled and Julienned
1/2 C Sugar
2 TSP Kosher Salt
1-2 TBSP Whole Coriander Seeds
6 Whole Peppercorns
To prepare the beets wash the stems and set them aside to dry. Peel the beets. If you want to preserve your pretty hands and protect them from turning all red and splotchy you may want to wear gloves when handling them. The photo of the cutting board above bears witness to the staining power of this brilliant vegetable.
Cut the beets into 1/4 inch discs and set aside. Cut stems into 1/2 inch pieces and reserve.
Bring one cup of water, vinegar, salt, and sugar to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add beets and lower to a simmer, cook 3 mins, add stems and cook another min or two or until beets are just tender. Remove from stove.
Place peppercorns, ginger, and coriander seeds in a quart sized ball jar with a tight lid. Pack beets in along with their liquid. Allow to cool before lidding. Top with lid, seal tightly and turn upside down. Let sit for another hour or so before refrigerating. The beets will keep well for about 2 weeks in the fridge. The make great accompaniments to juicy summer burgers and are stunning on salads with avocado and crumbled blue cheese.
Tomorrow marks a momentous occasion in the Briggs/Limaye Household. Dustin is starting a new job at an engineering firm in Downtown Nashville and I could not be more proud of him. We are both so excited about what this new position means for us as a couple. Not only will it drastically increase our joint income but, more importantly, Dustin will finally have an opportunity to put his new degree to use and get to work in this field of engineering that he is so excited about.
There are, of course, additional perks to this new appointment. First, it means that Dustin and I will FINALLY be on the same work schedule. Dustin will be out of the house at his new post from 8-5 each day (saving the world from flooding one swale at a time,) leaving me to focus on my work during those hours. It means that we will finally get to climb together and train together regularly at the gym during weeknights. Additionally, with no more need to toil away his Saturdays and Sundays at a local taco shop D and I will be able to take last minute get aways to the local rocks that brought us down here in the first place. Additionally, we will, at last, have an opportunity to schedule vacation time together that does not require that one of us will have to forego pay to take said time off, AND that will not need to be fit inside the confines of a school’s semester schedule.
Among all of this excitement Dustin is looking forward to learning the ins and outs of office life at his new company. There are so many questions – from what to wear – to what his new colleagues will be like – to, most importantly, what to bring for lunch. A few month’s back Dustin and I attended our friend Julie’s pig roast. As the pig first came off the flames Julie handed each of us a slice of home made pan de mie and some pickled peppers and sent us down to the freshly rotisseried pig to make – what quickly became the best sandwich I have ever had. Approaching this new endeavor I thought it might be a good idea to try to recreate some of the elements of that meal for Dustin’s lunch this week. It might not be quite the meal that we enjoyed at Julie’s party but hopefully it will bring a taste of home to his days at work.
1 Cup White Vinegar
1/2 Cup Water
1 TSP Kosher Salt
3 TBSP Sugar
1/2 TSP Mustard Seeds
1/2 TSP Pickling Spice
1 Garlic Clove
2 C Hot Peppers, Cut into Rounds
In a saucepan, heat water vinegar, salt and sugar, let the solution come to a boil. In a cleam pint jar, place garlic clive, mustard seeds. pickling spices, and hot pepper strips, pack the peppers in to fit in the container. Fill with the hot brine, leaving about 1/2 inch head space. Let the jar cool before putting it away in the refrigerator. The peppers will keep refrigerated for a week or two and will provide a bit of pep to your sandwiches.
We have almost exactly one month left until D-Day (departure day.) So with the impending move looming before us we decided to trek up North to spend time with family and visit one of our favorite North East climbing spots in Rumney, NH. We had two of the most beautiful climbing days I have had outside in a long time. The hikes and views were beautiful and the climbs were simply exhilarating. Returning to Dustin’s parents house, I was looking forward to cooking up some old fashioned comfort food.
Dustin’s family always seems to have deli meat, something we rarely buy at home, sliced and ready to go in the fridge. I was inspired to whip up something new for lunch. I realize that, for me, this is a fairly simple recipe and a bit of a departure from my normal, more intricate posts but it was so incredibly deletable I just had to share!
I will admit I am somewhat slightly obsessed with pickles. For this recipe I like a fresh, Jewish deli style garlic pickle. The ones I used were extremely fresh, less vinegary and tasted more cucumber-y than your average kosher dill variety. Use these if at all possible as they impart a certain freshness to the dish that a more garlicky and acidic variety would not.
This buttery bread bomb lands squarely between a Classic grilled ham and cheese and its up market cousin, a Cuban style panini. The smoked deli ham imparts a nice hickory flavor which is mellowed out by the buttery bread and creamy cheese. Thinly sliced pickles add a subtle twang while whole grain mustard provides a punchy finish. As I like my grilled cheeses piping hot, after searing the bread in a pan, I popped the sandwich into a preheated oven to finish it off and bring the ham and pickles up to temp.
Serve this along side a summery slaw and good quality kettle chips for an unbeatable deli-style summer lunch.
Grilled Cheese with Ham and Pickles
2 Slices of Good Sourdough Bread
1 TSP Good Grainy Mustard
2 Slices of Provolone Cheese Preferably Sharp (Sliced at Medium Thickness)
2 Slices Smoked Deli Ham (Sliced at Medium Thickness)
1 Fresh Kirby Sized Garlic Pickle Sliced into Thin Rounds
Freshly Ground Pepper
2 TSP Unsalted Butter
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
Start by assembling your sandwich. Lay your two slices of bread on a plate. On one half spread your TSP of Grainy Mustard then top that with a slice of the provolone, on the other half lay down the second slice of cheese, ham slices and pickles. Grind on a turn or two of freshly ground pepper before carefully flipping mustarded-ed half on top of the pickles to close the sandwich.
Heat a small oven proof skillet over medium heat. When the pan is hot drop in on TSP of the butter. Once the butter has melted place the grilled cheese in the pan to sear the outside. Cook the grilled cheese until the underbelly is golden. Carefully lift the sandwich with a spatula and suspend over the pan while you drop in the second TSP of butter. Sear this second side until this too is golden. Place the entire pan in the oven and cook for 3 mins. Flip GC and cook 3 mins longer. Check to make sure the center is warm. Remove your steamy and now gooey GC from the oven slice in half, arrange on a plate and serve with sumptuous sides of your choice.