Pickled Black Eyed Peas – A Paean to Helen Corbitt


Throughout the south, New Years Day is the one for building a lucky meal based on black eyed peas, (BEPs). Whether it’s with a ham hock and greens, or hoppin’ john, a whole lot of those perky little field peas get eaten on January first.

Field peas are grown over millions of acres worldwide. Closely related to green peas, they are an annual crop that originated in India, then migrated to Africa, and to North America some 400 years ago.

While we all pretty much have heard of the black eyes, there’s a bunch more cultivated and enjoyed here in the states – look up the Mississippi Silver, Texas Cream, and Dixie Lee varieties and you’ll get the picture. Check out Rancho Gordo, or Camellia for great dried black eyed peas, and Camellia offers several other field pea varieties.

Popular as they are, black eyed peas do present a bit of a problem for many folks – they just don’t like the taste. Field peas in general, and BEPs in particular are not bland – they’re quite bold in flavor, with an earthy, almost funky top note that many find off putting.

Perhaps the most famous hater of BEPs was Helen Corbitt, an Irish Yankee force of nature who, against her better judgement, took a job teaching catering and restaurant management at UT Austin in 1940. Her comments on that speak to her wonderful personality – she said, ‘Who the hell wants to go to Texas? Only I didn’t say ‘hell’ in those days. I learned to swear in Texas.’

When Corbitt hit the Lone Star state, its cuisine was generally abysmal. Helen Corbitt almost single handedly raised the bar of cooking in Texas – But black eyed peas remained her kryptonite, until she came up with the perfect solution, having moved on from UT to take over restaurant management at Neiman Marcus – Texas Caviar.

Texas Caviar was, under Corbitt’s skilled hand, basically quick pickled black eyed peas – BEPs with onion, garlic, oil and vinegar, a pinch of salt and twist of pepper – and my oh my, were they popular. Neiman Marcus sold a ton of it. So if you or someone you love can’t quite hack the taste of BEPs, Helen’s brilliant twist on those field peas is the answer.

Look up ‘authentic Texas Caviar recipes,’ and you’ll find a raft of them – almost all of which have everything but the kitchen sink in the mix, and almost none of which mention Corbitt or reflect her original recipe. Fact is, the specter that Helen faced when she arrived in Austin has risen again with these recipes – canned goods, evident in spades. Canned corn, tomatoes, chiles, green peas and black beans, just to name a few.

You’ll also find bell peppers, sugar, bottled salad dressing, avocados, and… yeah – you get the picture. Now, to be fair, a lot of that may be added to hide the funk of BEPs, and if so, Helen would likely approve.

Here’s my swing at a recipe based on Helen Corbitt’s original inspiration, with just a twist or two reflecting things I really like. When Helen came up with this gem, it was 1957 – she didn’t have a whole hell of a lot of choices for onion varieties, oils, or vinegars – even jalapeños would have been a bit exotic back then. Now we have choices galore, and those should be celebrated – Helen would want us to do just that.

Try it out, and then tweak it to exactly how you like it and make it yours – you can certainly do a vinegar brine without oil if you’d like to. Whatever you make, don’t even think about using canned peas – cardboard, even nicely pickled, remains cardboard at heart.

Thank You Helen Corbitt Pickled Black Eyed Peas


4 Cups cooked Black Eyed Peas

1/4 small Onion

1 Jalapeño Chile

3 fat Cloves fresh Garlic

1/2 Cup Avocado Oil

1/2 Cup Pineapple Vinegar

6-8 twists fresh Black Pepper

3 finger pinch Kosher Salt

Peel, end trim and dice onion.

End trim and dice jalapeño – Field strip the chile if you want less heat, AKA remove the white inner membrane – that’s where the heat lives in chiles, not in the seeds.

End trim, smash, peel and mince garlic.

Pour cooked beans into a clean quart mason jar.

In a small mixing bowl, combine oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper and whisk with a fork to fully emulsify.

Pour dressing over the beans, leaving about 1/2” head space.

There will likely be a bit too much of everything to get it all in the jar – Darn – guess you’ll just have to scarf that down…

Seal jar and refrigerate for at least 3-4 hours to allow the flavors to marry and the tartness to develop – and overnight is even better.

Will last about 5 days refrigerated – as if it’ll be there that long…

It’s fall – time to make great Coleslaw


If you don’t like coleslaw, it’s probably not your fault. When what you’re offered is the same old tired side dish, what reason have you to be excited? Yet there’s hope, folks – because good coleslaw rocks, is easy to make, and is a perfect vehicle for showcasing late season goodies from your garden.

Slaw has a venerable past, reaching all the way back to the Roman Empire. The version we know best today has its roots in Dutch immigrants who settled in New York State – they grew a lot of cabbage, to take advantage of the wealth of vitamin C that can provide during the long winter months. They made sauerkraut, as well as an unfermented, shredded cabbage salad – Koosla.

Mayo-based dressing that adorns most slaw these days is quite a bit younger than vinegar versions. Invented by the French in in the mid 1700s, it took mayonnaise a while to arrive in the colonies – it showed up in American cuisine in the 1830s.

All that historical jive aside, if you’re not that hot on slaw, it’s likely that some combination of four factors are in play – either heavy, mayo-based dressings don’t float your boat, the sauce to veggie ratios you’ve tried were way off, what you were given wasn’t fresh, or you just don’t dig cabbage all that much. Fortunately, all these are easy fixes.

Mayo-based slaw dressing is great, especially when it’s made with fresh mayonnaise. Great creamy slaw dressings can also be made with sour cream, crema Mexicana, crème fraîche, Greek yogurt, or buttermilk. Still shaking your head? Then there’s a world of zippy oil and vinegar dressings out there for you.

As for super saucy slaw, a word – don’t. Always keep in mind that this is a dish that celebrates lovely fresh veggies – the dressing is a note, not the whole damn symphony.

Coleslaw is all about fresh veggies. In fall, cabbages are at their best – and I mean cabbages plural – there’s the classic round in red, white and green, the wrinkly Savoy, delicate Napa, choy sum, and deep green Tuscan. There’re also carrots, onions, garlic, celery, Brussels sprouts, kale, bok choy, mushrooms, and kohlrabi. That’ll make a slaw that celebrates late harvest bounty.

Mizuna

If you don’t dig cabbage, there’s arugula, cress, mustard greens, mizuna (Japanese mustard), mibuna (Chinese cabbage), and tatsoi, (non-heading Asian mustard). Never heard of them? Do some poking around in your local co-op or CSA and you’ll likely find most if not all available. Chewy flavorful, these greens will make a great base for a non-cabbage slaw.

Mibuna

Whatever you do, portion accordingly, so that what you make gets eaten right away. With the exception of ingredients you might want to quick pickle or marinate for a bit before assembly and service, slaw must be fresh – that means don’t dump dressing on slaw hours before you’re going to eat. Dressings need decent marriage times, but the marriage of veggies and dressing shouldn’t happen until quite close to service.

Long gone are the days of slaw featuring naught but cabbage and carrot. Onion, celery, garlic, sweet peppers, cilantro, fresh chiles, radish, shallot, tomato, cukes or green beans – if you love ‘em, add ‘em. Fall fruits and nuts? Absolutely. Perhaps a quick pickle of onion, garlic, shallot, carrot, or beans to contribute another layer of zing? Without a doubt. What about cheese in coleslaw? Well, yeah – a touch of Parmigiano Regiano, feta, aged cheddar, or creamy Swiss? Hell yeah.

Slaw should never be boring – it’s a celebration of color, taste, texture and scent. Fresh herbs? Definitely – basil, thyme, rosemary, parsley, cilantro, sage, lemon thyme, or savory can all find a place in the veggie mix and/or dressing. Add touches of flavored vinegars, soy sauce, fish sauce, hot sauce, dried chiles, sesame seeds, cardamom, anise, Thai basil, or favorite spice blends from curries to furikake, and you’ll create stunning homages to many a cuisine.

Tailor your slaws to what you’re after – Something New Englandish? How about apples, chestnuts, roasted pumpkin seeds, and a dressing with a maple syrup note. Thai? Maybe glass noodles, bean sprouts, Thai basil, mint, and a dressing with notes of chile and fish sauce. Chinese? Maybe crunchy lotus root, Chinese long beans, choy sum, and a dressing laced with Pixian Sichuan Bean Paste – You get the idea, right?

Here to get you started are four dressing options, my go-to, a Japanese inspired Furikake, a Caribbean jerk powered one, and an Arab inspired version with besar.

For the Mayo and yogurt dressings, you can mix everything together and whisk until you’re fully incorporated. For the oil and vinegar versions, mix everything except the oil, then add that slowly in a thin stream, whisking steadily, to allow the emulsion to properly form and bind. All these should have a good 20-30 minutes of marriage time prior to dressing your slaw. These are proportioned to do just about right for a bowl of slaw that’ll feed 3-5.

Urban’s Go To Slaw Dressing

3/4 Cup Mayonnaise

2 Tablespoons Pineapple Vinegar

1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard

1 Tablespoon Agave Nectar

5-6 Shakes Hot Sauce

1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt

7-8 Twists freshly ground Black Pepper

Urban’s Ginger-Furikake Slaw Dressing

1/4 Cup unseasoned Rice Vinegar

1/2 Cup Avocado Oil

1 Tablespoon Agave Nectar

2 teaspoons fresh grated Ginger Root

1 teaspoon Yasai Fumi Furikake

1/2 teaspoon Roasted Sesame Oil

1/2 teaspoon freshly minced Garlic

1/4 teaspoon Sea Salt

Urban’s Citrus Jerk Slaw Dressing

2 Fresh Limes – 1/4 Cup fresh squeezed Lime Juice

1 Fresh Orange – 1/4 Cup fresh squeezed Orange Juice

1/2 Cup Avocado Oil

1 Tablespoon Agave Nectar

1 Teaspoon Jerk Spice Blend

1/4 teaspoon Sea Salt

Urban’s Emirati Besar Slaw Dressing

3/4 Cup plain Greek yogurt

1/4 Cup Avocado Oil

1 Tablespoon fresh Lemon juice

Zest from small fresh Lemon

2 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar

2 Tablespoons Agave Nectar

2 teaspoons Emirati Besar

Pinch of Sea Salt

5-6 twists Black Pepper

Kaye Harris’ Black Eyed Pea Hummus


Kaye Harris is a Facebook Friend. Kay is one of those people that I genuinely consider a friend, even though we live far from each other and haven’t yet met face-to-face. If you look her up, you’ll see her short self-description as ‘Leftist, Feminist Patriot, Graduate of Satan’s Reform School, Advanced Degree in Verbosity from STFU.’ That’s probably in a nutshell why I dig her so much.

I know that she’s smart, funny, deeply caring, widely talented, a great cook, and a wonderful friend, mother, and grandmother. She’s from the Gulf Coast – grew up in Mobile and lives in Biloxi. She’s the epitome of why M and I love the south so much – that sleepy, hot, muggy air that encourages, nay, demands that you to settle the fuck down. The amazing people who invite you to swipe an ice cold beer bottle across your forehead, put your feet up on the porch rail, and set a spell – supper’ll be along…

Kaye and I have shared affinities across a bunch of things, but cooking great food may well be foremost among them. When January 1st rolls around, I know she’ll be making something with black eyed peas, as will I. It also comes as no surprise that she’s got great recipes for stuff other than field peas with ham hock and collard greens. If you truly dig black eyed peas, you’ll have options in your quiver – because anything so good deserves to be celebrated in a bunch of ways.

Here is Kaye’s Black Eyed Pea Hummus, which she promises is fabulous. She’d be right about that. Y’all enjoy, and come see me now, hear?

Kaye Harris’ Black Eyed Pea Hummus


2 1/2 Cups cooked Black Eyed Peas

1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

3 Tablespoons Tahini

2 cloves fresh Garlic

2 Tablespoons fresh Lemon Juice

1 teaspoon Smoked Paprika

3/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt

1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper

For Topping –

More EVOO, Paprika, Red Pepper Flakes, Maldon Sea Salt (or any swanky finishing salt you dig), Fresh ground Black Pepper

Drain black eyed peas well.

End trim, smash, and peel garlic.

In a food processor, add the garlic and pulse until minced.

Add BEPs, tahini, lemon juice, smoked paprika, salt and pepper – pulse until all ingredients are well integrated, and forming a thick paste.

Turn processor on and add the olive oil in a slow drizzle, until you’ve attained a smooth, creamy consistency.

Transfer to a serving bowl, and top with more EVOO, paprika, red pepper flakes, finishing salt, and fresh ground black pepper.

Devour with abandon.

Maque Choux – A Cajun Twist on Succotash

Derived from a native New England dish, Maque Choux is a simple, hearty and delicious side dish.


I came across an FB post by Diane Whatley Nix, a friend on a cooking group called Wok Wednesdays, shared an image of Maque Choux made in a wok. Instantly, I was shown a flash of brilliance for the cooking method, and reminded of a delicious dish I hadn’t made since leaving Texas six years ago. Note: If you’re into wok cooking, then you need to check out the group – It’s dedicated to cooking your way through Grace Young’s The Breath of a Wok, and it’s a serious gas!

Maque Choux (AKA mack shoe, muck shoe, muck show, and so on), is the Cajun version of that venerable side dish, succotash. The name may sound French, but it’s probably a Creole derivation of a native term. This is a great side dish at any time of the year, but especially in late summer, when all of the veggie constituents are right outside in the garden. 

Many folks know of succotash and assume it to be southern, but that would be incorrect – Succotash came from some of the original occupants of New England – The name derives from a native term, possibly the Wampanoag word msíckquatash, (boiled corn kernels), or the Narragansett sohquttahhash, (broken corn kernels).

Succotash was, and is, a base of fresh corn, some kind of shell bean, and a little protein – nowadays, most commonly bacon, but back then in New England, fish or game. Any number of additional veggies and herbs might be added, like tomatoes, sweet peppers, chiles, fresh herbs and other seasonings – all of which are New World foods and therefore likely as authentic as anything else. There are a dizzying number of ‘authentic’ succotash and maque choux recipes out there, but the truth is that damn near anything you feel like doing will be authentic enough – These are dishes designed to use what was ready at the time, and later down the line, to clean out a fridge, maybe.

Succotash was popular because it was filling and nutritious. That base mix of corn and beans is rich in protein, carbohydrates, essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals. It’s still a popular side dish at many a New England Thanksgiving dinner, and was likely a main course at that original dinner hosted by the locals, to which a ragtag band of Puritans and Strangers were invited. Those settlers quickly learned that the key base ingredients lent themselves readily to drying, which meant a lifesaving, year round food supply for a struggling population.

As us white usurpers spread across the new land, (including my direct ancestor, who arrived in 1636), succotash came along for the ride, morphed by local crops as it travelled. In the south, dang near any corn and bean combo that’s fried up in lard or butter is called succotash, albeit the vast majority of the time, the bean in question will be a lima, and there will almost always be okra.

Those migrants included the Acadiens, French people exiled to the Canadian Maritimes by the Seven Years war between Britain and France in the middle of the eighteenth century. While many Acadiens remain in the Maritimes, a sizable group made their way south to warmer climes, specifically, Louisiana, which was a French colonial holding since about the time the Puritans hit the beach at Plymouth. And of course, Cajuns are in Louisiana to this day, and from that many good things have come, including maque choux.

Study up some on maque choux, and you’ll see one glaring difference from traditional succotash – It don’t have no beans on board. That’s not to say you couldn’t, or that beans aren’t popular in that neck of the woods, because you could and they are -But, when you see how the dish morphed, you’ll understand right away – It’s because of the only aromatic base that we here in the colonies can lay claim to – The Holy Trinity.

We have the Cajun folk to thank for our only original combo – onion, celery, and green pepper, and really, nothing else, (albeit when used in soups and stews and whatnot, some folk do like to whip a little roux right in with it as it cooks, to kind of get a leg up on things). Now, the key to aromatic bases is the ratio, and in that regard, there are a couple of camps for the Trinity – those who do equal measures of each, and those who portion like mirepoix, 50% onion, 25% each pepper and celery. For my mind, it kinda depends on when you’re making it. If we’re talking the non-growing season, I’d go for the heavy onion version, but if you’re in the sweet spot, where those things are right out there in your garden, I’d absolutely opt for equal shares.

As for the protein, again, you can do what you like with no shame. I like local, smoky pepper bacon myself, but down south, a lot of folks are partial to andouille sausage, and you’d be hard pressed to go wrong there. Honestly, anything you’ve got that needs using would be lovely, from pulled pork to shredded chicken, (or even beans.)

Finally, the wok as a cooking method/vessel is simply brilliant. As Diane noted, making maque choux in one adds a perfect crispy crunch to the dish that you’d be hard pressed to get anywhere else. It’s also fast, and fun, and very pretty, so give that a go. This recipe will make enough for four, and maybe some leftovers

Maque Choux a la Urban

3 ears fresh Sweet Corn

4 strips Pepper Bacon

1/2 small sweet Onion

1-2 stalks fresh Celery, including leaves

2 Anaheim Chiles

1 fresh Tomato

2 cloves fresh Garlic

4-5 fresh Chives

1 sprig fresh Thyme

1 Tablespoon Avocado Oil

A few shakes Go To Seasoned Salt, (I prefer our smoky version)

A few twists fresh ground Pepper

Mise en place for maque choux
Mise en place for maque choux

Cut kernels off the corn in two passes – Take the first to roughly cut the kernels in half,then the second to get what’s left – This gets all the corn milk in play and adds a bit more moisture to the mix – Cut the corn into a plate or shallow bowl. If you’re shy getting to the base of the kernels, flip your knife around and use the spine to scrape out those last, sweet bits – And don’t friggin’ cut yourself.

Stack your bacon slices, cut them down the middle lengthwise, then into roughly 1/2” squares.

Dice the onion, celery, and chiles into roughly equal piles.

Slice the tomato – You can gut it if you like, (M is always offended when I leave the guts in…), or not as you please.

Mince the garlic, thyme, and chives.

Set the wok over a medium high flame and heat through –  A drop of water should vaporize pretty much instantaneously when it hits the wok, then you’re ready to go.

Stir fry bacon first - Your wok will thank you
Stir fry bacon first – Your wok will thank you

Stir fry the bacon, stirring steadily with a wooden spoon.

When the bacon is about 3/4 of the way you like it, turn the heat up to high and add the avocado oil. 

When the oil is shimmering, (not smoking – That’s too hot), add the onion, celery and chiles.

adding the Holy Trinity to maque choux
adding the Holy Trinity to maque choux

Stir fry, steadily working the mix to incorporate. When the onions start to turn translucent, add the garlic and stir fry for a minute or so until the raw garlic smell dissipates. 

Final ingredients
Final ingredients

Add the corn and stir fry steadily to heat through and incorporate – If things are getting a bit hot, turn heat down somewhat – I change heat constantly as I cook on a wok, and so can/should you.

Stir fry the mix until the corn starts to get a little crust and the smells are driving you nuts.

Add the tomato, chive and thyme, a few shakes of seasoned salt and a grew twists of pepper, and stir fry to incorporate all the seasonings.

Maque Choux a la Urban
Maque Choux a la Urban

Transfer to a bowl and serve hot.

Giardiniera – The King of Pickled Veggies

Giardiniera – The King of Pickled Veggies. Easy to make, and a great use for those late season veggies from the garden or farmers market.


This year’s garden has been hit and miss. Some things have done nicely, others not, even with staggered plantings. That struck home when we had a look at the cucumbers and realized we wouldn’t get enough to make a winters worth of pickles and relish – That’s when inspiration struck – Why not go for a big batch of Giardiniera, the King of pickled veggies, instead?

Giardiniera, (Jar-dhi-nare-uh), is a delightful pickled vegetable mix, either done up as bite sized pieces or a relish. Redolent of fresh veggies and good olive oil, wrapped around lip smacking brininess that rivals a great cornichon – This is something we all need to be making at home.

Pickling foods to preserve them hardens back thousands of years and crosses numerous boundaries – almost every society does and has employed it. Everything from veggies, to meat, fish, fruit, nuts, and even eggs can end up in the pickle jar, much to our advantage. Pickling not only helps preserve things through the dark months, it adds a vital zip to what can otherwise be a rather bland time of year.

Giardiniera hails from Italy, and means literally, ‘from the garden, (also called sottacetto, or ‘under vinegar.’) While variants come from all over the boot, the versions we’re most familiar with has southern roots, down where the mild Mediterranean climate fosters a wide variety of veggies, the best olive oil, and great sea salt. That’s where those colorful jars filled with cauliflower, carrot, olives, onions, peppers, and chiles hailed from.

image

You’ll likely find jars of the bite sized version of giardiniera in your local grocery, with the fancy olives and other pickled goodies. While some of the commercial stuff is pretty good, none of it can match what you can make at home, and to top things off, it’s remarkably easy to do, (And frankly, the relish version of giardiniera is much more versatile, and rarely found in stores).

Seasoned with fresh herbs, maybe even touched with a little hot chile flake, giardiniera is fabulous on sandwiches, (including burgers and dogs), pizza, salads, and as a table condiment with more dishes than you can shake a stick at. Now is the time to be doing up a few batches of your own – it’s fairly traditional for giardiniera to be made in the fall, as a catch all for all those late season veggies we don’t want to lose to the first frost.

The American home of giardiniera is Chicago, where that famous Italian beef sandwich hails from. Slow roasted beef, cooked over its own jus, sliced thin and slapped onto a nice, dense roll, ladled with a generous spoon of giardiniera, a little jus, and eaten in the classic sloppy sandwich hunch – a little slice of heaven.

Italian Beef Sandwich, fueled by Giardiniera
Italian Beef Sandwich, fueled by Giardiniera

Making giardiniera is a real treat. Your first and foremost issue, naturally, is what to put into the mix. The blend I outlined earlier is generally recognized as the classic base mix, but pretty much anything goes, (I should note that peppers and chiles were not in the original Italian versions of the dish, as they didn’t show up in European cultivation until the 1700s.) firm veggies, like carrots, celeriac root, turnips, cauliflower, broccoli, and asparagus do well. Peppers and chiles will do well too, though really soft stuff like tomatoes tend to break down quickly.

Making giardiniera couldn’t be easier. While some recipes call for cooking or fermenting, (both processes are perfectly fine), the simplest version is, for my mind, best – Just brine your veggie mix for a day or two, until you reach the degrees of zip and bite that you like, and that’s it. You’ll find recipes that call for the mix to be stored in brine, oil, vinegar, and a simple vinaigrette – My money is in the latter option – that will provide a nice stable medium, and a great taste as well.

There are typically mild and spicy (AKA Hot) versions, and extensive regional variety, like the Chicago style that includes sport peppers and an accompanying degree of heat. Down south, the version that goes with a muffuletta sandwich is mild and heavier on the olives. Those are great, and worth your time to build, but really, look upon giardiniera as a launching pad for creativity – You really can’t go wrong if it’s made with stuff you love – For instance, I didn’t have celery when I made up the relish version, but I did have fresh celeriac root, and it turned out to be a wonderful substitution.

You can use any oil and vinegar you like for the base vinaigrette. Seasoning can be as easy as good salt, olive oil, and vinegar. When you feel like adding additional spices, be conservative in both number and ratio – The rule of three is a good thing here.

Unless you process your giardiniera in a hot water bath, keep in mind that this is basically a fridge pickle. If made carefully, and packed into sterilized glass jars, it will last a month or two refrigerated. Just keep in mind that they’re not shelf stable unless you go through the canning process. Accordingly, what we offer below are small batches that will make a couple of quart jars of finished product. There are cooked and fermented versions out there, and we’ll leave those for you to explore.

Giardiniera Relish

A quart of fresh Giardiniera will last a couple months in your fridge
A quart of fresh Giardiniera will last a couple months in your fridge

For the base mix

1 Green Bell Pepper
1 Red Pepper
1 small Sweet Onion
2-4 Jalapeño Chiles
1 medium Carrot
1 Stalk Celery
1/2 Cup Cauliflower florets
1/4 Cup Pickling Salt

For the final mix

1 Cup White Vinegar
1 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
6-8 large Green Olives
1 Clove Garlic
1/2 teaspoon Chile Flake
1/2 teaspoon Lemon Thyme
1/4 teaspoon ground Black Pepper

Rinse all produce thoroughly.

Stem, seed, and devein the peppers and chiles, (leave the veins in the jalapeños if you want more heat).

Cut all veggies for the base mix into a uniform fine dice, about 1/4″ pieces. It’s not important to be exact, just get everything about the same size and you’ll be fine.

Transfer the mix to a glass or stainless steel mixing bowl. Cover the mix with fresh, cold water with an inch or so to spare.

Add the pickling salt and mix with a slotted spoon until the salt is thoroughly dissolved.

Cover with a tight fitting lid and refrigerate for 24 hours.

After 24 hours, take a spoon of the mix out, gently rinse it under cold water for a minute or so.

Test the degree of pickle and softness of the veggies. If you like what you’ve got, move on – If not, give it another day.
When you’re ready to prep the final mix –

Remove the base mix from the fridge and transfer to a single mesh strainer. Run cold water over and through the mix, using your hand to make sure that the salt solution is rinsed off.

fine dice the olives, peel, trim and mince the garlic.

Add all ingredients to a glass or stainless mixing bowl and stir with a slotted spoon to thoroughly incorporate.

Sanitize two quart mason jars either by boiling the jars, rings, and lids for 3-5 minutes in clean, fresh water, or running them through a cycle in your dishwasher.

Transfer the mix to the jars, and seal. Refrigerate for two days prior to use.

Giardiniera, bite size
Giardiniera, bite size

For the bite sized version, cut everything into roughly 1″ pieces, )or larger, depending on jar size and predilection), and process as per above. A bay leaf or two is a nice addition.

Pasta Salad with Creamy Lemon Dressing


I love a creamy pasta salad, and with lots of veggies springing forth from the garden, summer is a great time for them. The majority of recipes you find are pretty heavy though, with mayonnaise or sour cream based dressings. I wanted something lighter and brighter, and came up with this excellent yoghurt powered lemon dressing.

There’s no real magic here, just a very nice combination that blends the brightness of lemon with the mouth feel of good yoghurt, and a touch of umami from garlic and fish sauce. With balanced sweet and tart, and a hint of backbite from the pepper, it compliments whatever you pair it with.

Pasta salad should be made with good stuff – so so leads to meh, otherwise – I t’s worth a splurge on a bag of high quality, local dry pasta. You want something short, that picks up easily and affords a good opportunity for the other ingredients to be there in every forkful, (spoon, in my case). Ridges are a must as well – they’ll hold onto the dressing better.

You can add whatever you like, of course. Celery, tomato, onion, sweet pepper, carrots, chives, and thyme were all available fresh as they can be, so we went with that, along with good olives, a little hard sausage, and an amazing five year old cheddar Casey made. Use what you love and have before you – the palette will always be changing.

Of course, you can leave out the meat and cheese and have an excellent vegetarian offering.

For the Pasta Salad

1 Pound Dry Pasta1/4 Cup of Hard Salami

1/4 packed Cup Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese

1/2 Sweet Onion

1/2 Red Bell Pepper

1-2 fresh Tomatoes

1-2 fresh Carrots

2 stalks fresh Celery (with leaves)

5-6 fresh Chives

2-3 stems fresh Thyme

3 finger pinch Salt

10-12 twists fresh ground Pepper


Add the pasta to plenty of well salted, boiling water. Boil until al dente, then drain through a colander.

Give the pasta a quick rinse with cold water, then drizzle with roughly a tablespoon of oil and toss to coat evenly.

End trim, peel and dice onion.

Top trim, and trim inner white membrane, then dice bell pepper.

End trim, gut and dice tomatoes.

End trim and cut carrots as you prefer, anything from rounds to dice.

Remove tops with leaves, and white bottoms from celery stalks. Carefully slice stalks lengthwise so you can dice.

Select 3-4 good sized leaves, roll tightly, and chiffenade cut them, (cut across the rolled leaves in roughly 1/8” widths)

End trim and fine dice chives.

Dice salami and cheese.

Starting at the top of the thyme sprigs, gently rub down the stem with 2 fingers, removing the leaves. Toss stems.

Combine all ingredients and toss to thoroughly incorporate, then dress. Let it sit for at least 30 minutes, refrigerated, so everything can marry.

For the Dressing


3/4 Cup Avocado Oil, (Olive or Canola are fine too)

1/2 Cup Whole Milk Plain Greek Yoghur

1/3 cup fresh Lemon Juice

3 cloves Garlic

2 teaspoons Dijon Mustard

1-2 teaspoons Honey

Zest from 2 small Lemons

2 finger pinch Sea Salt

6-8 grinds Black Pepper

3-4 drops Red Boat Fish Sauce

Zest, grate and juice lemons.

Smash, end trim, peel and mince garlic.

Combine all ingredients, but start with 1 teaspoon of honey, then add more if desired.

Let it sit for 15 minutes, taste test, and adjust balances as desired, then refrigerate and let it sit for at least 30 minutes before deploying.

Best used fresh. Knockout the next day.