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Giardiniera: A drunk gardener?

Friday, August 3, 2012


You know how you have to buy a whole head or bunch of celery (why is it called a head, and who's head is shaped that way?) and it takes forever to use up all the ribs? Celery keeps well, but still, finding ways to use it is not always easy for me.
But an episode of Man v Food filmed in Chicago featured a restaurant that served a sandwich garnish/relish called giardiniera (here's a video; the giardiniera appears at the 3.23 mark). It was made with celery and had chilli in it and it looked delicious. I had never heard of this pickle and looked it up.
It was interesting to find out that the word "giardiniera" does not only refer to mixed pickles, but is also Italian for a lady gardener and a station wagon. And since "pickled" is slang for drunk, well, I don't need to say what image popped into my head.
Some pickles have to be "cooked" in heated vinegar and undergo a few steps before they can be eaten, but making the giardiniera seemed a lot easier. Here are a few recipes I looked at before I made mine:
Michael Symon's recipe was the one that used only celery along with the chillies and what-not, while the other two had other vegetables in the mix as well, like cauliflower and peppers (capsicum). There were differences in the kind of vinegar that was used too: some used white, others used apple cider or wine. All had some kind of chilli pepper and various spices.
I went with the spirit of all these recipes, but didn't follow any particular one. And that's completely okay, I'm sure. The pickling juice has a good flavour, which was absorbed by the celery. The vegetable retained its crunch, and I am pretty happy with it. 
Slice the celery, chilli and onion
I sliced up (thinly) almost a whole bunch of celery which was around 450g or about 3½ cups. I added a couple of sliced green chillies (don't know what they're called; they're Asian chillies and not very hot) and some red onion. Shallots would have been better, I think, but I didn't have any. 
They were tossed together, salt was mixed in, and enough water went on top to cover all the ingredients. The bowl was covered with cling film and left on the kitchen counter overnight.
Add the spicy vinaigrette to the vegetables 
The next day, the mixture was drained well to get rid of the salted water. A combination of spices came next: minced garlic, chilli flakes, dried oregano, nigella seeds, black pepper, and sugar – just enough of each to produce what I thought was a good flavour. Because the fresh green chillies were quite mild, I added quite a lot of chilli flakes to increase the heat. Everything was whisked into a mixture of apple cider vinegar and rice wine vinegar (I had to use two types because I didn't have enough of either to make up the required amount! But this proves how easy it is to adapt the recipe) and sunflower oil, and this was poured onto the celery, which was then bottled and placed in the fridge for 48 hours before I tasted it.
Now I have to make a sandwich so that I can top it with giardiniera just like that episode of Man vs Food which inspired me to make the garnish in the first place. Only problem is I've been so engrossed in watching the Olympics that I haven't bothered to cook at all this past week.
Crunchy garnish for burgers
Hot Celery Giardiniera
Makes about   cups

450g celery, sliced thinly (about 3½ cups)
2 finger-length green chillies, sliced thinly
1 medium red onion, sliced thinly
2 tbsp table salt
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp dried oregano
2 tsp nigella seeds
3 tbsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1-2 tbsp brown sugar
250ml (1 cup) apple cider or rice/white vinegar (or a combination)
250ml (1 cup) sunflower oil
Sea salt to taste

Combine the celery, green chillies and onion in a large non-metallic bowl; mix well. Stir in table salt and cover with water.  Cover with cling film and leave on the kitchen counter overnight.
The next day, drain the celery in a colander. Place in a bowl and set aside while you make the vinaigrette/marinade.
Whisk the remaining ingredients together until amalgamated. Add to the drained celery. Stir to combine and place in a clean bottle. Cover the top of the bottle with cling film, cap it and refrigerate. Marinate for 48 hours before using.

1 comment:

  1. Jane, that's a fantastic use for the celery bunch, sounds delicious! Now it's my turn to say that I've learned something new today ;)


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