With heavy frosts threatening we had an end-of-the-garden evening meal, enjoying digit-sized summer squash, spinach and green beans, our enjoyment all the more fervent as we were saying goodbye to our favorites for the season. We’ll eke out a few more spinach salads, but the vining crops are done and tomatoes all moved inside, onions, garlic and potatoes stored away. This leaves a ragtag assortment of vegetables to combine in ingenious ways, including refrigerator pickles, soups, pasta and pizza toppings and soups.
One late-season choice is giardiniera, a fancy way to say Italian pickled vegetables. It most closely resembles an old-fashioned Southern specialty, piccalilli. Giardiniera makes a fine antipasto on its own or as part of a platter with cured meats and cheeses and, if made with hot peppers, Chicago-style, is a favored topping for hot dogs or brats and on beef sandwiches. It can have a wide assortment of vegetables, but generally cauliflower, carrots and green and red peppers are among them, although green beans and tiny onions can also be included. Having a jar of giardiniera in the refrigerator is like having money in the bank.
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G I A R D I N I E R A
- Pickling Liquid:
- 21⁄2 cups white vinegar
- 3 cups water
- 3⁄4 cup sugar
- 5 Tbsp. kosher salt
- 1⁄2tsp. dried red-pepper flakes
- 6 cups cauliflower florets
- 2 bell peppers, one each red and green, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 cups carrots, cut diagonally into 1⁄2-inch-thick slices
- 4 celery ribs, cut into 1-inch-thick slices
- 1 cup drained bottled whole pepperoncini
- 1 cup large brine-cured green olives
- 1⁄2 cup oil-cured black olives
Bring pickling-liquid ingredients to a boil in a 3-quart saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Transfer to a 4-quart glass bowl and cool about 30 minutes. In an 8-quart pot, bring about six quarts water to a boil. Have a large bowl of ice and cold water ready to stop vegetables from cooking. Add cauliflower to pot and boil until crisp-tender, about four minutes, then transfer with a slotted spoon to ice bath to stop cooking. Cook remaining vegetables separately in same manner, allowing four minutes each for bell peppers and carrots and two minutes for celery. Drain vegetables in a colander and spread out on kitchen towels to dry. Add cooked vegetables, pepperoncini and olives to pickling liquid. Weight vegetables with a plate to keep them submerged, then chill, covered, for at least one day, but several is better. Store in glass Mason jars in the refrigerator.
This is the perfect time to put together end-of-the-garden soup, using parsley rescued from the cold, tomatoes with soft spots, any potatoes that were cut by the harvesting spade, and leeks and carrots from the garden. Make a double batch and freeze it for those winter days when the garden is just a memory.
E N D – O F – T H E – G A R D E N S O U P
- 4 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2 cups chopped leeks, white part only
- 2 Tbsp. finely minced garlic
- Sea salt
- 2 cups carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 2 cups peeled and diced potatoes
- 2 cups fresh green beans, diagonally cut into 3⁄4-inch pieces
- 2 quarts chicken or vegetable broth
- 4 cups peeled, seeded, and chopped tomatoes
- 2 cups chopped broccoli or shredded cabbage
- 1⁄2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 1⁄4 cup packed, chopped fresh parsley leaves
- 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
Heat olive oil in large, heavy-bottomed stockpot over medium-low heat. Add leeks, garlic, and a pinch of salt and sweat until they begin to soften. Add carrots, potatoes and green beans and continue to cook for five more minutes, stirring occasionally.Add the stock, increase the heat to high, and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, add tomatoes, broccoli or cabbage, and pepper. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the vegetables are fork tender, approximately 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat and add the parsley and lemon juice. Season to taste with sea salt.
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