notes from maggie's farm
I've always been a fan of the condiment.
I mean that little bit of goody on the side, intended to perk up your taste buds a bit, and season your dish with a little more pizzazz than the standard salt-and-pepper lends. Whether it be chutney, chow chow, pickles, a little stuffed egg or even a few simple crudite', having a little something 'on the side' dresses up a plate so nicely.
While it's quite a 'southern thing to do', condiments are served with dishes all over the world. In fact, some cuisines rely on several small plates of various condiments to 'dress up' standard fare like beans and grains at almost every meal. Think of the pepper-sweetened dainty cucumber slivers on the Thai table, or the mint chutney in India. Preserved lemons of Morocco, and Major Grey chutney in the United Kingdom. Salsas and Pico de Gallo in Latin America and sumac-laced fresh cucumber salads from Mediterranean street carts. In the South, these condiments take on the salty/sweet/tangy/and a tad spicy profile. Think bread and butter pickles and hot pepper jelly. Blend all those traditions above and you have a brightly-flavored accessory that elevates the ordinary--just like the colorful scarf tied onto the handle of your fashionable aunt's pocketbook.
With fresh veggies and herbs only steps from my kitchen door, and my larder always stocked with vinegars and assorted sweeteners, we mix these little sweet and savory meal perk-ups at whim. Use what you have in your own pantry, along with a little imagination, and you will always have a little 'something something' for your plate that is uniquely yours, and tailored to your specific needs, meal, cuisine, and tastes.
We recently served these Quick Pickled Radish and Spring Onions with Butter and Beer Braised Pak Choi with Andouille and Tasso, along with a wedge of smoky cracklins cornbread......and it's the finest of southern comfort foods; the perfect farmhouse supper, without a lot of fat or fuss. We like that.
And so easy to do! We gathered, washed, and trimmed white and red radishes, sliced thinly, reserving a few green leafy tops, chopped, and added to the mix, the small white bulbs of baby spring onions, whole, along with a few slices of the tender white stem, a small bunch, about 6 stems, of garlic scapes (the small bulb at the tip of the garlic greens, along with about 4 inches of the attached foliage tops that grow above ground), and
whole spices-- 1 healthy teaspoon each of brown mustard seed, crushed red pepper flakes, crushed coriander seed, and grated ginger, fresh. (substitute 1/2 tsp powdered ginger, if fresh is unavailable)
and brine-- 1 quart of equal parts fresh, filtered water, and rice wine vinegar, unseasoned, to which 2t-1T of salt, and 1/4 cup sugar (we used light brown sugar) has been added. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally, until sugar and salt have dissolved, add spices, then remove from heat, and bring down to room temperature.
In a medium mixing bowl or large jar, pour cooled brine to cover vegetables, weight with a small bowl or plate to keep submerged in brine, and allow to set at room temperature for 30 minutes, then refrigerate. Pickled vegetables can be served with as little as an hour chilling time, however they are at their best when refrigerated for 24 hours prior to serving. Store for up to 7 days in jar, covered in their own brine.
What to do with the leftovers? Well, we eat them straight from the jar with a fork, for a quick pick-me-up on those warm afternoons spent in the garden, and little time for cooking, or want for a heavy meal, but they are also pretty handy at dressing up a tuna salad sandwich. Chopped fine and added to the stuffing for a new take on deviled eggs, or blended into unsalted butter for a fresh bite, perfect for spreading on a tea sandwich, or water crackers. We can't imagine a bowl of fresh garden peas without them, and they really add something much needed to a simple poached chicken breast.
So, see, really, the question is....what can you NOT do with the leftovers? Make a batch today, and they will be ready to dress up your Easter dinner in just a few days, perk up your egg salad sandwiches next week, and provide a healthier late night nibble when, after all the fun has been had, you're too darned tired to cook.
Have a glorious Easter.