Wednesday, September 30, 2009

pickle girl to Join International Pickle Day 2009!

pickle girl, and my kindred pickle spirit, Pickle Freak, will be in the "Resources" tent at the Ninth Annual International Pickle Day on the LES this Sunday!

Wear a costume and strut your salty stuff with the "big pickle" on the green carpet, then upload your photos to our flickr page!

From Grub Street:
What: Ninth Annual NYC International Pickle Day
When: October 4

Where: Parking lot on Broome Street between Essex and Ludlow

What’s New: “More free pickle samples ranging from India to Haiti, Malaysia to Brooklyn, and kosher dills from our very own LES!” Most exciting: There will be canning demos, pickles from the New York Science Barge, music from accordion trio Main Squeeze, and a parade complete with costume contest, though take note — costumes have to be “family friendly.”

Price: Free. More information here.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

This just in, via today’s Tasting Table: Edible Manhattan will be celebrating its first year with a Fall Harvest Party this Saturday, complete with a dedicated Pickle Tasting Room! Pickle superstars Rick’s Picks, Horman's Pickles, and Brooklyn Brine Co. will be featured among the city’s other artisanal purveyors of the cheese, chocolate, and salumi varieties.

South Street Seaport (Fulton/South Sts.); buy tickets here ($40).

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Pickles Next Door

A small dose of pop culture to get us through the week. To the serious foodies out there: I'm sorry. I couldn't resist.

Monday, September 21, 2009

End of Summer Garlic Conserve

An ode to fresh garlic on this last day of summer...

I’ll often pickle scapes, but this is the first time I have pickled bulbs (buying the soy-pickled variety from the Korean market doesn't count).

This adapted Paul Virant recipe for fresh garlic conserve (via StarChefs) is served with roasted marrow bones and wood-grilled bread. I may end up eating this with everything from bread alone to duck confit nachos.

Side note: Chef Virant is a pickle girl favorite.

1/3 cup olive oil or grape seed oil
4 1/3 cups peeled garlic cloves
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup Champagne vinegar
2 heaping tsp. salt

Fresh Garlic Conserve:
1. Heat the oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until caramelized; add the sugar and continue to caramelize.

2. Deglaze with water and cook until the garlic is tender.

3. Deglaze the pan with the Champagne vinegar, add the salt, and remove from the heat.

4. Pack the garlic into sterilized jars and process in a hot water bath.

Pickles in the News: It's a Happy Girl World

Congratulations to my friends at happy girl kitchen co.! The Guardian voted their spicy heirloom tomato juice one of the 50 Best Foods in the World. Pick yours up at the Ferry Building farmers market or order online.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Pickle Passport: Sardella and Her Fella

We raced into Crotone with dreams of a three-hour seafood feast as reprieve from Calabria's oppressive heat. Sidelined by fishmongers slinging eel, sardines, and octopi, we talked into the siesta hours until every dining option was closed. Frankly, we could stand to miss a meal at that point.

This happy accident introduced us to sardella—Calabrian caviar—one of the most obscure flavors in Southern Italy. Keeping with the paradigm of simple Italian dishes, this paste is made of very few ingredients: salt, the region’s sun-baked pepperoncini piccante, and baby sardines, which are left to cure for six-seven months.

Actually, make that newly hatched sardines.

It’s a cruel world, but what can I tell you? It’s a delicious one too.

Sardella paste is sold from plastic buckets at weekly markets. My favorite pasta during this trip (this time I really mean it), was al dente spaghetti, finished in olive oil and sardella. It was at once sweet, salty, earthy. Six Euros of humble bliss.

We also ate simple crostini spread with sardella all over Calabria. Its boldness an arm wrestle with the toe's fierce Ciro wine. Sadly, this nuanced, umami flavor was not available in cans or jars for the trip home. What I would give for some right now.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Pickles in the News: Man Defiles Pickle Jar to Make Bomb

This just in from The Badger Herald: man attempts to create bomb from pickle jar. Police thwart his plans, but the neglected victims of this story are the pickles. A snippet:

The pickle jar was on a bench behind Olson, containing batteries and other unidentified objects. A pile of pickles was sitting on the bench in the park, along with a liquid that was presumably pickle juice, according to the police report.

I hope they give this guy 25 to Life.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Pickle Passport: Alici in Wonderland

What was once the center of Magna Graecia is now a bankrupted city that’s been brought to its knees by rampant corruption. Like a scene out of Gomorrah, Taranto runs on fumes; in the darkness of a night without electricity, schemers and pickpockets lurk in the cobblestone alleys of the Old City.

It’s a good thing I’m not writing this for the Taranto Tourism Board…

We initially thought Taranto’s only redeeming quality was an outstanding archeological museum, but then we wandered into a fish market and discovered these home-cured alici, or salted anchovies.

The fishmonger eagerly demonstration how the fish are cleaned in one swift move that simultaneously removes the head and pulls out the innards. The anchovies are then rinsed and layered in crocks for one month, weighted down by plaster-filled water bottles.

This being Italy, nothing goes to waste: Colatura di alici is a fish sauce created from the juices in these crocks, and it's a kick-in-the-head addition to a rustic pasta dish with breadcrumbs, garlic, and alici.

It doesn’t get any simpler than this ancient preservation method, and it doesn't get any sketchier in Italy than Taranto.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Pickle Passport: Lampascioni

(Pickled lampascioni, Il Frantoio masseria, Ostuni)

Another untamed staple of Puglia’s cucina povera: wild hyacinth bulbs, or lampascioni. These rosy rounds make a delectable pickle with a delicate onion flavor.

On one particularly bacchanalian evening, we enjoyed an antipasto of pickled lampascioni, fried, burst open by the heat, and then drizzled with orange blossom honey at Il Frantoio. Side note: this was our FAVORITE masseria on the entire trip. It is heaven, and I could dedicate this entire blog to my musings on the matter.

(Photo courtesy of Parla Food, since mine did not turn out!)

But, back to the pickles… I’m going to thinly slice my lampascioni into rings and cure fresh, Montauk anchovies in their white wine vinegar brine.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Pickle Passport: Cardoncelli Magic Mushrooms

The wild cardoncello mushroom—so called because they grow under thistle, or cardo—is just the Smurfiest. Although they look like the Japanese mushroom cookies with chocolate tops, cardoncelli are typical of the terra alla tavola (earth to table) cooking found in the Murgia, a fertile strata in mid-Puglia.

Cardoncelli season is fleeting, so it’s no surprise they make for ubiquitous pickles in the region’s daily markets and antipasti offerings. Buy in bulk from plastic barrels or opt for the canned, easy-to-bring-home version (sort of easy--damn you, three-ounce rule).

These rascally cardoncelli are from a two-table market in the tiny town of Bitonto, just outside of Bari, where there is an impressive 11th-century Romanesque cathedral.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Pickle Passport: The Great Pickle Girl Caper

(Local capers, Locorotondo market, Puglia)

We are back! Albeit it 10 pounds heavier, 30 gallons of olive oil richer, and countless Euros poorer! But life is short, and the pickle adventures must go on.

I am beholding the spoils—jars of capers, anchovies, lampascioni—spread out on my kitchen counter as a kaleidoscopic still life in the trippy fog that is jet lag. (Not to be outdone by the piles of handmade orecchiette and strozzapreti, dried IGP Basilicatan chiles, and ceci nero, Italy's elusive black chick peas.)

pickle girl embarked on some serious recon of all things preserved and pickled in the 1500 miles we drove between Italy’s stiletto heel and the big toe that teases Sicily. I couldn’t wait to share this with you!

This first installment takes us to Puglia, the beginning of our journey. Consider this my homage to the humble caper. "Caper" is really the name for the Capparis spinosa bush that bears a white flower whose bud is harvested and pickled before it opens.

Puglia's capers are small, tight buds preserved in coarse salt or brine. The salt is local too--a specialty of Margherita di Savoia, Europe's largest salt beds at 75 square kilometers.

The behemoth capers with long stems often associated with southern Italy are technically caperberries, the fruit the flower bears if the bud is left on the bush. These can be found in Calabria, but, we'll get to that later, pickle friends.

My favorite use of these pickles was when they were fried in olive oil to garnish the coast's famous grilled fish. Frying capers forces open the bud to make a tiny, salty flower that is a beautiful, crunchy foil to the flaky fish.