With another monthly food swap on the calendar, Tara got busy creating an updated version of one of her childhood favorites: Italian pickled vegetables. She took a store-bought family staple and made a delicious homemade replica that I know would be gobbled up at my next backyard soiree. What family food memory has inspired you recently? -Maggie
When I picture my childhood summers, I remember kids running around or splashing in a pool, adults gossiping in lawn chairs, everyone eating. With my big Italian family, food was varied and abundant. Cookouts didn’t just have burgers and dogs — there were courses. Chips, dips, pasta, meatballs, salads of the veggie, pasta, and potato varieties, corn, beans, rolls, grilled meats, and an antipasti plate.
I loved taking the antipasti — weird and wonderful cured meats, salty cheeses, tangy vegetables — and making little sandwiches. Each time, the antipasti had different components, but spicy pickled giardiniera was always there. Crunchy and piquant, it cuts through the richness of the cheese and meat. But back then, I wasn’t thinking of the balance of flavors, I just knew it tasted good.
Grabbing a jar from the store was how my family did it, but I set out to create my own giardiniera. Here, I stick with the classic Italian American mix of cauliflower, bell peppers, and carrots, though you can certainly add squash and onions for a more traditional feel.
A combination of red pepper flakes and fresh Serrano peppers add the heat, but can be omitted for a mild version. By packing the vegetables in white wine vinegar with only a splash of olive oil, you can still process in a water bath. And if you don’t make a ton of antipasti, consider straining a jar of giardiniera into a food processor and pulsing a few times to create a spread that is just perfect for Italian subs or roast beef sandwiches. Toss a handful of green olives in there, too, and you have the base for a delicious muffaletta.
makes 6 pint jars or 12 half-pint jars
- 1 head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
- 1 pound of carrots, peeled and chopped
- 4 red bell peppers, seeded and chopped
- 12 cloves of garlic, peeled
- 3.5 cups white wine vinegar
- 3.5 cups water
- 6 tablespoons black peppercorns
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 6 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1.5 tablespoon kosher salt
- 4 Serrano peppers, seeded and minced (optional)
- 3 teaspoons red pepper flakes (optional)
- In a large saucepan over medium high heat, combine the vinegar and the salt. Add the water and bring to a boil.
- Divide the garlic cloves, peppercorns, oregano, Serrano peppers, and red pepper flakes evenly amongst your sterilized jars. Layer in the vegetables, leaving an inch of headspace.
- Ladle your hot brine into the jars, leaving ½ inch of headspace. Divide the olive oil evenly amongst the jars.
- Check for air bubbles, make sure jar rims are wiped clean, and then top with lids and rings, to fingertip tight. Process in a water bath for 10 minutes, then remove. Check lids for a seal after an hour. If a jar has not sealed, store in the refrigerator immediately. Let sealed jars stand for 24 hours.
All photos styled and taken by Tara Bellucci.
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