Thursday, July 27, 2006

Chef Profile: Peter Hoffman's Pickled Okra

(Recipe courtesy of The Complete Organic Pregnancy, by Alexandra Zissu--to be released September 2006.)
Peter Hoffman is the owner and chef of Savoy Restaurant in New York City

"Caribbean folklore is that okra helps the baby come on and starts labor. My wife decided that she had had enough of being pregnant the second time around, so she ate a big jar of pickled okra (also took some castor oil, which certainly didn’t hurt) and she started her labor fast and furious,” recalls Peter. “One hour to be exact. And I delivered the baby on the front steps of our apartment.”

1 lb. small okra pods - cut off any darkened stems, but leave whole
½ tsp. dried red pepper flakes
2 tsp. mustard seeds
3 cloves garlic, halved
1 tsp. dill seeds
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup rice vinegar
1 cup water
3 Tbs. kosher salt

1. Pack three 1-pint canning jars with the okra standing vertically, and alternating stems and tips. Put a halved garlic clove in each jar as well.

2. In a metal, non-reactive pot bring liquids to a boil. Add salt and spices. Allow to steep 20 minutes. Fill jars with the liquid to within ½ inch of the rim. Wipe rims and put on lids.

3. Put the glass jars on a rack in a deep kettle canner and cover with hot water by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, cover and boil for 10 minutes. Remove jars from the bath and leave to cool. Let pickles mellow for two weeks minimum before tasting. Best at 1 month.

Makes 3 pints

Pickled Glassworts and All

This is perhaps the easiest pickle to make--you simply fill a mason jar with glasswort and cover with white vinegar. The glasswort is so alkaline, there's no need to add salt. Let them pickle for one week in the refrigerator before eating; they last indefinitely in the fridge.

The only hard part can be finding glasswort. In late spring through early summer, glasswort--or sea beans--are harvested in the Pacific Northwest and shipped to specialty markets across the U.S. (Whole Foods and Garden of Eden carry them in NYC).

With their salty, ocean taste and crisp, cucumber-like texture, pickled sea beans are a whimsical substitute for olives in dirty martinis. They're also lovely served alongside Alice Waters' slow-poached wild King salmon.

Pickled Habanero Garlic Scapes

Garlic scapes are the buds of the garlic plant (just as capers are pickled flower buds). Be sure to include both the bud and the stem, which lend a mellow garlic flavor to Bloody Marys, fingerling potato salads, and charcuterie boards.

1 lb. fresh garlic scapes
3 habaneros (or jalapenos, for a subtler kick)
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 tsp. dill seeds
1 tsp. black peppercorns
1 recipe basic pickling brine

1. Wash and dry scapes, then wind them into bundles that comfortably stack into a quart-size canning jar.
2. Bring basic brine recipe to a boil, add habaneros, garlic, and whole spices, and simmer for 5 minutes.
3. Pour hot brine mixture over scapes and seal jar tightly. Refrigerate for at least 1 week before using, and keep for up to one month. (See canning entry for long-term preservation method; process for 10 minutes.)

Basic pickling brine
Building on the basic pickling brine, you can create myriad varieties of pickles by adding whole spices and aromatics, such as hot peppers, citrus peels, and garlic.

1 Qt. white vinegar
1 cup water
6 Tbs. kosher or pickling salt (I use kosher because I prefer the flavor)

Gingered Red Campaign Gooseberries

See below for Zuni Cafe recipe; add 4 or 5 slices of ginger.
Two pints of fruit = two pints of pickles.

(Incidentally, pickled gooseberries were popular during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, but are making a comeback at NYC Greenmarkets.)

Spiced White Currants

See below for Zuni Cafe recipe.
Two pints of fruit = two pints of pickles.

Spiced Zante Grapes

(Recipe adapted from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rodgers.)

1 lb. Zante grapes (or other ripe, tiny grapes)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup Champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
1 cup dry white wine
A few allspice berries
1 bay leaf (Turkish, not Californian, which tastes medicinal)

1. Wash and dry the grapes, then cut into small clusters. Leave naturally "raisined" fruit on the stem, as they will take the brine well and further raisin. Place fruit in wide jars with shoulders to keep the clusters in the brine.
2. Combine the sugar, vinegar, wine, allspice, and bayleaf in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring for about 1 minute.
3. Allow the brine to cool, then pour over the grapes. Seal and store in the refrigerator at least 1 week before using (keeps indefinitely).

This recipe makes 2 pints

Note: For the best quality pickles, use a fine Champagne vinegar and Muscovado sugar, which is a higher-quality version of brown sugar (the cane is grown in volcanic ash on Mauritius):

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Power to the Pickle

Lately I’ve noticed that scores of urbanites with seemingly better things to do in their spare time are spending hours over boiling canners in crammed, apartment kitchens--all in the name of pickling. Ok, so maybe they’re not out there in droves, but this 30-year old Manhattanite is not above admitting that I’d rather pickle than party.

I'm downright obsessed with unusual pickles, and my hope for this blog is to cull as many offbeat recipes as possible. Sure, we all love the classics like bread-and-butters and dilled kirbies, but I want to find those quirky recipes that take a bloody mary to the next level or introduce finds, such as pickled sea beans (AKA glasswort) or Jean-Georges' wasabi-pickled cauliflower, to a dinner party.

For example, last summer I made Judy Rogers’ (of San Francisco’s Zuni Café) spiced Zante grapes, and at a fall harvest party, served them alongside ribbons of smoked duck breast from Blue Ribbon Bakery’s latest outpost. They were stupendous--at once tangy and sweet--and this summer, I’ve adapted the recipe to pickle the red campaign gooseberries and white currants that have been abundant in the NYC Greenmarkets.

I’ll be posting photos and commentary on this recipe and other pickle progress as often as possible (with a focus on seasonality and a distinction between refrigerator pickles and ones that require canning). I welcome you to do the same!

I wholly admit that this is a dorky endeavor, but secretly, you know your inner-pickler is dying to come unsealed.