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Curried Cauliflower Pickles

January 10, 2012

Wandering through the produce market, it is easy to become entranced.  I most recently succumbed to cauliflower.  The big snowy globes of pure veggie power were calling my name.  They may just be the most versatile winter vegetable, ready to adapt to any flavor profile or dish in which they are called to serve. I filled my basket with four huge heads and began dreaming of the possibilities.  Two heads went straight into a double-batch of pickles.

Curried Cauliflower Pickles are a crunchy, intensely flavored Indian condiment.  Serve them on the side of any Indian-inspired dish or nibble on them as an appetizer.  They are not too bad straight from the jar either.  Awaken the flavors by toasting the spices in a dry pan before adding them to the jars.  The cauliflower, ginger, and garlic all pack into the jars while raw.  After pouring the boiled brine into the jar, submerge the jars in a water bath for 10 minutes to seal the jars.  In this time the cauliflower cooks to a perfect tenderness.  While the pickles are ready to eat in a week, they will continue to become more flavorful with time.  Shake the jars periodically to distribute the spices that have settled to the bottom.

T, my good friend and canning comrade, turned me on to this recipe from Alton Brown.  The original recipe did not give directions for how to can the pickles, so I cross-referenced with my other canning materials to determine the processing time.  I altered the spices a bit to suit my taste.  The curry is fairly mild.  Increase the amount of spice if you want more intensity.  Adding some chile flakes or hot peppers would be a nice touch as well.

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Shaved Brussels Sprout Slaw

November 6, 2011

It has been a slow transition to fall around here.  Halloween has come and passed, but until today the skies have been clear and the air relatively warm.  This must be the reason I have not yet completely embraced the hearty warm foods of the darker months.  Now daylight savings has come to an end and the rains are finally pelting down. The last of the tomatoes found their way into salsa and the eggplants into stir fries. It is time to break out the symbolic fall and winter vegetables and what better to start with than brussels sprouts in salad form?

Shaved Brussels Sprout Slaw is a bright and crisp salad.  Brussels sprouts (which are rarely served raw) are sliced very thin and tossed with red onion, a lemony mustard vinaigrette, and percorino romano cheese.  If you think you do not like brussels sprouts, be sure to give this a try.  Leaving them raw keeps them crisp and mild in flavor with none of the distinctive odor that comes from cooking them.  Serve this salad with just about anything, but I love to serve it beside some other rich saucy dish where it adds a fresh and acidic counterpoint.

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Nothing says fall like winter squash… and apples… and walnuts, so clearly this is the perfect side dish to make NOW.  We are big fans of butternut squash around here, check out the Butternut and Black Bean Salad from last year.  This year though, somehow butternut squash never made it into the ground and we are the happily storing quite a few acorn squashes that took their place in the planting beds.  There are lots of fun ways to cook up these beautiful treats, but my favorite is to make Acorn Squash Rings with Apple Glaze.

Take care in slicing the squash, as that is as good a way as any to loose a finger.  It helps to take a small slice off of one side, then place the cut side down.  That will give the squash some stability as you hack into it.  Scoop out the membrane and seeds and they are ready to steam.  Do not forget to try on some squash glasses for size!  Note: at least with my kids, they are more likely to eat the veggies if they have a hand in making/playing with them! (For more ideas on getting kids to eat their veggies check out this post.)

This recipe is not mine and if you look you will find many versions on the web.  While that may be a turn-off to some, I say it is evidence of a great recipe that is worth sharing.  My version uses non-clarified butter and less of it, but otherwise it is basically the same.  The tender squash soaks in the sweet and tangy apple glaze and the candied walnuts add a pleasant crunch.  These rings look beautiful on the plate, making it great for a weeknight dinner or special enough for a holiday. My mother-in-law first introduced me to this yummy dish with asparagus laced through the centers of the rings (as you will find is the most common version.)    I opted not to include the asparagus this time (there is no chance of finding local asparagus in October), but love the way they make this into a truly elegant side dish.  If we have any squash leftover in springtime, I will definitely add them in.  The acorn squash rings are attractive enough to stand on their own, or fill the centers with a scoop of wild rice or stuffing.

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I often speak to people who have never canned food and they express their concerns. Some people discuss worries about the safety of home canning, others suffer from a lack of confidence about how to successfully can food , and still others think they do not have time in their busy lives to preserve the bounty of the seasons.  It is to all of those skeptics that I dedicate this recipe.  It is a perfect entry-level canning project: almost zero safety concerns, easy to do if you follow the basic instructions, and very quick to put together.  And so here is my challenge to all those who have meant to can, but have not:  Try this recipe now, while the asparagus is fresh and inexpensive.  Fill your shelf with these beautiful jars.  Feel the satisfaction of putting up your own food.  Let your experience bolster your confidence for more canning projects through the summer. Heed the call of the jar!

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