For me, pickling conjures up visions of charming country kitchens, steaming pots, banging screen doors, and faded Liberty print housedresses; row upon row of shiny jars packed with bright, tasty things to spice up the dreary winter ahead.
At this time of year especially, that vision of industry, tradition and simplicity has its appeal.
Of course, it’s totally a fantasy: despite my attempts at various other incarnations over the years, I am a city girl through and through, completely and happily entrenched in city life, not bound to tradition, and not terribly industrious either – especially when the task at hand involves the kind of repetition that home canning demands.
I am also not a fan of making things in bulk, so, much like life in that country kitchen, those rows upon rows of jars would drive me a little crazy after a very short time.
(And did I mention that I don’t even really love pickles?)
And yet – and yet! – the fantasy remains.
These two (delicious, bright, and easy) salads are the closest I will come this year, but they will, in my mind’s eye, almost get me there.
Slightly Pickled Carrot and Peanut Salad
I should warn you that neither of these salads keeps particularly well over night, so don’t plan for leftovers.
1/4c white wine vinegar
1/4c olive oil
1 tsp sesame oil
6 medium carrots, thinly sliced
3/4c salted peanuts
Whisk together vinegar and oils in the bottom of a large non-reactive bowl (I use a Pyrex mixing bowl).
Add carrots and toss well. Leave 3-4 hours, if you can!
Add peanuts just before serving, and toss well.
Slightly More Pickled Zucchini Salad
4 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
1/2c white vinegar
1/4c brown sugar
2 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh chives
Place zucchini in a large non-reactive bowl (I use a Pyrex mixing bowl). Add 1/4c of the vinegar, 2 tbsp of the sugar, and 1 tsp of the salt, and toss well. Let sit at least an hour or two, then turn zucchini out into a colander and drain well.
Return zucchini to bowl and toss with remaining vinegar, sugar, and salt. Add chives and toss well.
Each salad serves 4-6, depending on what else is on offer. Faded housedress optional.
The passing mention of this new habit in a recent post did nothing to reveal how momentous a difference ordering food online, and its subsequent delivery, has wrought; so let me just say, unequivocally and on the record:
It has changed my life.
I have always loved shopping for food (and most other things, too), but lately it had been starting to feel like a bit of a chore.
We have several big household expenditures coming up, so we have been making an effort to be more frugal – which has meant less shopping at the pretty little jewel box-like shops along our strip in favour of trips to the vast, faceless and uninspiring (but ultimately more economical) supermarket at the outer fringe of our neighbourhood.
Because I find going to that store the worst kind of drudgery, my husband has been doing the grocery shopping of late – and although his is an errand of mercy and I should be grateful that he does it at all (and I am grateful, really!), I am not always pleased with what he comes home with.
It’s not that he’s a bad shopper – I’d just prefer to do it myself.
(For a while there, because of my control issues, we were making our trips to said giant grocery store en famille, and that was the worst kind of gong show:
Picture the four of us, largely disgruntled and at least one of us hungry, hurtling through the aisles in an attempt to make good choices and buy everything on our list before someone had a major meltdown and we were forced to leave without anything.)
Enter the life-altering on-line supermarket, where the aisles are empty, there is never a line at the checkout, and you don’t have to pay in cash or bag your own groceries.
Yesterday, I ordered everything on my list while nursing my baby and watching my daughter do a 300-piece puzzle.
And then this morning, before I had even finished making my coffee, there was a man at the door with four boxes of fresh food for my family and me.
I was so delighted by the whole thing, I made us a cake for breakfast to celebrate.
Spiced Carrot Breakfast Cake
The disadvantage of this over, say, muffins, is that it takes considerably more time to cook. That said, it also seems to go a lot further (don’t ask me why, since the ingredients are virtually the same), and the presentation is awfully pleasing. Besides, who can resist the notion of cake for breakfast?
1c wheat germ
1/2c applesauce (unsweetened)
1/3c oil (once again, I use coconut, but any vegetable oil will do)
1/2c agave nectar OR thawed apple juice concentrate
1 2/3c whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp nutmeg
about 2c grated carrots (I grate 2 fairly big carrots – not enormous, but not medium-sized either)
1/2c chopped pitted dates
1/2c chopped almonds
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a tube pan.
Place wheat germ in a large mixing bowl.
Combine buttermilk, eggs, apple sauce, oil, and agave nectar in a large glass measuring cup and whisk until smooth. Pour over wheat germ in bowl and stir to combine.
In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg. Stir in carrots, dates, almonds, and craisins.
Add flour mixture to buttermilk mixture and stir until just combined. Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake about 40 minutes (check after 35), or until a tester inserted into the cake comes out clean.
Cool 10-15 minutes in pan, then run a knife around the sides to loosen the cake and invert it onto a wire rack.
Serve immediately, or let it cool a little longer before serving.
Makes at least a dozen slices.