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The art of the quick pickle

quick pickle

Whenever I make up a batch of quick pickles, I think about my grandmother, who had such a lush, amazing garden, and the food preservation skills to match. She had little in the way of finances, so she was always very frugal about using whatever was on hand so we could enjoy the tastes of her garden throughout the long, cold Minnesota winter months. I remember zucchini, squash, tomato salsas, even fruit pickling. If she grew it, she canned it.

 

When I grew up and became a chef, I never forgot the way my grandmother would make sure to use produce wisely so that there wasn't any waste, and of course, I never forgot her quick pickles. 

 

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Don't fear the kohlrabi — it comes in peace

kohlrabi

Kohlrabi. That often-massive light green orb with tentacles, excavated from under your piles of chard and kale at the bottom of the CSA box. “Weird,” “alien,” and “compost pile-bound” can be heard when describing it. But beneath its rough exterior lies a tasty ingredient for your stir frys and slaws that will leave you wishing for more.

 

A member of the same family of vegetables as cabbage and kale, kohlrabi is high in both vitamins C and B6, as well as many other vitamins and minerals. It’s readily available during Minnesota summers at farmer’s markets, co-ops, and occasionally more traditional markets, and it’s usually inexpensive.

 

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Vino 101: A few (not fifty) shades of gray

pinot grigio

This marks the debut of SGT's new wine column, by one of our favorite oenophiles. Cheers!

 

At a recent tasting, I was pouring a glass of Oregon Pinot Gris, and someone asked me a perfectly sensible question that wine pros hear all the time: "What's the difference between Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio?" Responding to this question is tricky, because the answer is both perfectly simple and kind of complicated.

 

The simple answer is that there is no difference. Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are simply two names for the same grape. Gris means "gray" in French, and Grigio is the Italian word for — you guessed it — gray. The name comes from the color of the grape (more about that later). 

 

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Make This Now: Red raspberry sorbet

raspberry sorbet

In honor of an upcoming visit from Jeni Britton Bauer (frozen dessert genius), we provide this snippet from her new book. Hello, summer desserts...we sure do love you. 

 

Raspberry sorbet is easy to find, and many cookbooks have recipes for it. I include it in Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream Desserts for two reasons. First, raspberries are an example of a perfect fruit, like really great peaches (harder to find than raspberries), black currents, and ripe apricots. Sometimes you just want to respect that and leave well enough alone. Will tarragon or spices or mix-ins make the sorbet better? No. They may make it interesting, but nothing can make fresh raspberries more delightful.

 

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Skip the Salad: Ideas for using up those gorgeous farmers market radishes

radish pile

The bunches of radishes you might see on the tables at many farmers markets are almost too pretty to eat: The bundles of bright red or variegated purple, pink, and white look like happy balloons. If your experience with radishes begins and ends at the grocery store or buffet garnishes, then you might be surprised with the variety of colors, shapes, and flavors. 

 

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A trio of grill-worthy veggie burgers

veggie burger

Let's face it: soy burgers and tofu hot dogs might be tasty if prepared just right, but they're not exactly perfect for grilling. Unlike their meaty counterparts, the vegetarian options don't boast that juicy-inside-grilled-exterior combination that makes everyone swoon. Plus, the aroma? Meh. 

 

During my long stretch of vegetarian living, I often forgot this, and thought that maybe this time the Boca burger would magically transform into a succulent dinner worth all the charcoal-heat-up time. Einstein once said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. He was also a vegetarian for a time, so maybe that insight stemmed from his own grilling experiences.

 

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Sage fritters

sage fritters

Several years ago, my mom loaned me her little cookbook called The Herb Cookery for ideas on different ways to use fresh herbs. Needless to say, that cookbook is still on loan, and as my herb garden grows bigger every year, I need more ideas than ever.

 

When my sage was growing like crazy and threatening to take over the neighboring herbs, I sought some advice from the cookbook and this recipe for sage fritters caught my eye. While I was leery of eating sage leaves pretty much on their own, I was amazed at how the cooking process really neutralized the otherwise overpowering flavor of the leaves.

 

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Seasonal Pick: Garlic scape chimichurri

garlic scape chimichurrie

Ah, summer. Farmers markets are hopping, CSAs start up again, and access to über fresh and local produce is finally easy once more. Except that in the first days of summer, the tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and squash we love to gobble up aren’t ready yet. Instead, vegetables and herbs that may be less familiar — pak choi, fiddleheads, ramps, and garlic scapes — still grace the stands. 

 

I’ve learned two tricks over the years when it comes to approaching cooking with new foods and both have served me well. First, ask the vendor. What is this? To what is it similar? How do you like to cook with it? They almost always steer you in the right direction.

 

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