Chicago Style Giardiniera

This is still the Finnish Dish, but this is definitely not a Finnish recipe.  Giardiniera means “from the garden” in Italian.  It is a very common condiment in Chicago, thanks to the communities of Italian immigrants that made it popular.  Pickling and marinating is a good way of preserving produce.  In Italy, Giardiniera is considered an appetizer, and the vegetables are cut in bite size chunks.  I have made that style before and just stored it in jars in the refrigerator.  The olive oil solidifies in the fridge so you need to take it out and allow it to come to room temperature before serving.  Chicago style requires a fine dice on the vegetables and the Giardiniera is used as a topping on pizza, salads, sausages, brats, nachos, sub sandwiches and the famous Chicago style Italian beef sandwich. The version I made today would most certainly be considered the “hot” version.  The Serrano peppers are what kicks up the heat level.  I did use half Serranos and half jalapeños, and I seeded the jalapeños, so my heat level should be a little lower than if I’d followed the recipe exactly and used all Serranos.  According to the internet, in excess of a million pounds of Giardiniera are sold in Chicago annually.

The recipe I used was one my friend John shared with me.  He had just made a batch and that inspired me to do the same.    Some of the recipes I read used a different ratio of spices and vegetables but in the end they were all pretty similar.  If you want to use your Giardiniera as an appetizer vs a topping you could follow the same recipe and cut the vegetables in larger, bite size pieces.

Day One Ingredients:

1 pound Serrano peppers sliced in quarter inch thick rounds

1 pound jalapeños seeded and diced small

1 pound sweet red peppers seeded and diced small

1 pound cauliflower chopped into small pieces

1/2 pound white onion diced small

1/2 pound carrots peeled and diced small

1/2 pound celery diced small

1 cup of salt

Now it’s time to chop, chop, chop.  And remember to wear gloves when you’re working with the Serrano and jalapeño peppers.  Get out a large glass or stainless steel bowl to put the diced vegetables in.  I weighed all of the veggies as I chopped them.

Now that you’re done with the hot stuff you can take your gloves off.

White onion.

Carrots.

Sweet red bell pepper.

Cauliflower.

Combine all of the vegetables in your bowl and add the salt.  Stir well to mix.  Cover with Saran Wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The colors are beautiful!

Day Two Ingredients:

12 oz of sliced green olives with pimentos

1 cup of reserved liquid from the olives

2 T minced garlic

2 tsp cracked black pepper

3 T dried oregano

5 cups white wine vinegar

3 1/2 cups grape seed oil

Get your canning jars ready.  If you’re using pint jars expect to fill between 10 and 12 jars.  I used jelly jars (1 cup) and finished with 24 jars.  Wash your jars well and keep them in a 200 degree oven, on a sheet pan lined with a towel, until you are ready to use them.  Fill your water bath and turn the burner on because Day 2 is much faster than Day 1.

Pull your vegetable mixture from the refrigerator and drain off as much liquid as possible.  I used a plate to push down on the vegetables while I poured off the liquid.  Now, more chopping.  Reserve 1 cup of liquid from the jarred olives and slice the olives.

Add the olives, olive brine and all of the remaining ingredients to the chopped vegetable mix.  Stir well to combine.  Now you’re ready to bottle your Giardiniera and process the jars.

Based on the advice John gave me, fill the jars just to where the rim begins.  You don’t want the jars leaking oil while they are in the water bath.  Be sure to wipe the rim of the jar well before putting the lid on and screwing it in place.  Process your jars in the water bath for 20 minutes.   Remove your jars to a towel or rack and allow them to cool down for at least 12 hours before storing them. Check all of the jars to make sure that they have sealed properly.  If you have a jar that did not seal put it in the refrigerator.

NOTE;  Like I mentioned earlier, if you want to use the Giardiniera for an appetizer, cut the vegetables into bite size pieces.  If you want to make a much milder version scale the hot peppers WAY back and add more sweet peppers, cauliflower and carrots.  You can leave the olives whole.

I have a beef brisket in my freezer.  I think I’ll cook up that brisket and try to replicate a Chicago style Italian beef sandwich.

 

 

Butternut Squash Soup

There was a restaurant that my friend Jane and I used to go to for lunch on Tuesdays when we felt like splurging a little on ourselves.  On those occasional Tuesdays when we wanted to enjoy a nice cocktail or glass of wine with our lunch, and have consistently good food and service we would go there.   The atmosphere reminded me of an upper class, members only men’s club from another era.  Beautiful table settings and good wine and top shelf liquor behind the bar.  Lots of dark wood, big stone fireplace, dim lighting, comfortable chairs…a very formal appearance.  You expect to look around the corner and see a billiard table or library, and men in suits smoking big cigars with a snifter of bourbon to cap off their meal.  Obviously my only experience involving “men’s clubs” is from novels or movies, but I think the friends who have joined us there for lunch would agree with my observations and know exactly the place I’m talking about.  One of the things that we frequently enjoyed there was their butternut squash soup.  It was served with a few salted and chopped pistachios and a small dollop of sour cream or creme fraiche in the center.  It always tasted so good!  Everything we ate there was excellent but I really liked the soup.  I looked through a lot of recipes and came up with an amalgam of two or three recipes.  It doesn’t taste quite the same but it was good.  The leftovers actually tasted even better.  Fresh squash is plentiful right not so it’s a perfect time to make it.

Ingredients:

1 butternut squash peeled and cubed

1 medium sweet onion diced

1 cup of celery diced

1 russet potato diced

3-4 cloves of garlic minced

2 T butter

3-4 cups of broth (vegetable or chicken)

1 T fresh ginger minced

2 cinnamon sticks

8 oz package of cream cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

Dice the potato, onion, and celery and mince the garlic.  Peel, seed, and dice the squash.

In a dutch oven, melt the butter and sweat the onion, celery, and potato.

Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant.  Add in the butternut squash, the cinnamon sticks and ginger, and the broth.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil.  Once it starts to boil reduce the heat and simmer for about an hour.

You want the squash and other vegetables to be nice and soft.  At this point you’ll want to remove and discard the cinnamon sticks.

Cube up the cream cheese and stir in.

Use an immersion blender to get a nice, smooth consistency.

If you feel the soup is too thick add additional broth.

Now you’re ready to dish it up.  I didn’t have any pistachios or creme fraiche so I used some homemade garlic croutons.  Enjoy!

NOTE:  After eating this soup I’ve decided the potato didn’t add anything significant so I will not use that component next time.  I did add another cup or so of broth to mine after blending.

My friend Jane and I decided that the soup we enjoyed at the “men’s club” had a little brown sugar or maple syrup and was sweeter than this recipe.  Also, the flavor of ginger is more pronounced in this recipe.  Adjust to suit your palate.

It’s not for everyone.  For some people the consistency would be off-putting.  My husband did not like it at all, but I didn’t expect that he would.  And I actually liked it best the second day which is frequently true of soups.  If you like butternut squash and if you like puréed soups I think you’ll really enjoy this recipe.

Pizza Sauce

It’s once again canning season.  I was really excited to find Roma tomatoes this year.  I had already canned two bushels for 90 pints of stewed tomatoes and diced tomatoes.  We love dishes with tomatoes and I go through a LOT of them every year.  But Romas make really good sauce so I had to buy another peck.  A bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck.  Does anyone else remember that??  It’s from a very corny Doris Day song.   I’ve made pizza sauce in prior years, but my friend Jane adds carrots to hers  for natural sweetness and a nice consistency, and imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  I’m a little more heavy handed on seasoning than she is, but I really liked the addition of the carrots.  If you’re fortunate enough to find Romas I’d recommend using those but, if not, regular tomatoes will also make a fine sauce.

Ingredients:

16-18 cups of peeled, cored, and diced tomatoes

2 cups of finely diced carrots

1 large onion diced

6-8 cloves of garlic

3 T olive oil

3 T oregano

3 T basil

1 T garlic powder

1 T pepper flakes

1 T fennel seed

3 T kosher salt

1/8th tsp citric acid per cup of sauce

The first thing you have to do is core, peel and dice all the tomatoes.  One peck made two batches of sauce.

Peel and dice the carrots, dice the onion and mince the garlic.

Add the olive oil to a deep heavy kettle.  Sweat the onion, garlic, and tomatoes for a couple minutes.

Add the tomatoes and bring them to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer until the sauce reduces and begins to thicken.

Add the spices and the salt.

Continue simmering, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has reached your desired consistency.  It’s not a fast process so you have to be patient.  My sauce simmered for a couple of hours. I used an immersion blender during the simmering process.

Once the sauce has reached the desired consistency you can start filling your hot jars and getting them ready for the water bath.  I used some cup and a half jars as well as some one cup jars.  Add 1/8th tsp of citric acid per each cup of sauce as you jar it.  Carefully wipe the rims of the jars before putting the lids and rings on.  Process in a water bath for 30 minutes. Allow your jars to cool on a towel or mat for at least 12 hours before storing them.

I saved a little more than a cup of sauce from the last batch and made us a pizza for dinner.

NOTE:  Let your own palate be your guide with the seasonings.  Taste while your sauce is cooking.  You can use pint jars if you prefer but I think the smaller jars are perfect for a single pizza.  If you do use pint jars increase the processing time to 40 minutes. This sauce is also good to use on pasta, a meatball sub, for dipping cheese bread, or on a veggie crepe.  Unlimited possibilities!