Category Archives: vegan

Pickled Fiddlehead Ferns

fiddlehead fern 4It’s Spring! Spring is here! This week was all 70 and 80 degree weather, bright sun, flowers, and sneezes. I’m in heaven. I’m also in San Francisco, but that’s beside the point.

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This week I hosted Book Club, which meant I fed a group of people that I haven’t cooked for before but who know I write this blog (not to mention the cookbook), which is a scenario that gives me panic attacks. What if they don’t like what I’m serving? What if it’s awful? What if I fail? My answer to these questions is to make something I know I do well, so I served up a grits bar and a Bloody Mary bar. And, despite my deepest insecurities, it was a hit.

fiddlehead fern

fiddlehead fern 3To add a little pizzaz to the Bloody Marys I pickled a batch of fiddlehead ferns, a Spring delicacy on par with ramps and garlic shoots. As my friend Katie described them, they taste like a blend between okra and green beans, the perfect taste of this fleeting season. A season I am whole-heartedly enjoying.

fiddlehead ferns 2Pickled Fiddlehead Ferns

1 cup fiddlehead ferns

1 cup apple cider vinegar

1 tbsp sea salt

1 tbsp green peppercorns

1 garlic clove, minced

Quick pickles:

Blanche the fiddlehead ferns and rinse in cold water. In a non-reactive saucepan, heat all ingredients to a low boil. Simmer 10-12 minutes. Transfer into a jar/covered dish and store, refrigerated, for up to two weeks.

Cupboard pickles:

ed note: These ratios make 1/2 pint of pickled ferns. Multiply ingredients as needed. 

Begin by sterilizing your jar and lid in a pot of hot water. Set aside. Leave the pot of water boiling.

In a non reactive sauce pan heat vinegar, water, and salt.

Blanche the fiddlehead ferns and rinse in cold water.  In your sterilized jar, combine ferns with remaining ingredient. Pour vinegar and salt into jar, wipe the rim down, place a clean lid on the jar, and screw band on tightly.  Process in your large pot (with rack) for 10 minutes.  Remove from water, give the band another squeeze, and allow to sit.  Once the jars have sealed (you’ll know if you can’t pop the lid up and down), set them in a cool, dark place for at least two weeks.  They will stay for up to a year.

Fried Plantains

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Last weekend I headed to sunny Georgia to surprise my dear friend Kellie at the opening of her first show in her new city of residence, Atlanta. Kellie, an incredible painter, has shown her work in galleries all over the world, from New York to Germany. And in the years since we graduated from MICA I haven’t ever been able to attend one of her shows. But now, with her here in the South just a mere 6 hours drive due West, I had my chance!

plantains 5I love surprising people but I’m horrible at keeping secrets which means I’m mostly just plain bad at surprises. So the fact that Kellie was so surprised and happy to see me when I walked into the gallery that she cried and fanned her face with her hands like a teary old lady is pure gold. And a testament to the sneakiness of Kellie’s boyfriend Corey, who kindly acted as my accomplice.

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The weekend, in its entirety, was perfect. Beyond the opening we enjoyed two days of beautiful in Atlanta- enjoying the warm Spring weather that felt like summer, walking around the botanical gardens, catching up. That’s the best thing about old friends, you just pick up where you left off, even if it’s been months or years since you’ve really spent time together.

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plantains 2Kellie and her family are from Trinidad, and on Saturday Kellie threw a party for her friends and family with mountains of Trinidadian food, made locally at a place in Marietta. It was all delicious, especially the doubles, but I spent the majority of my time hovering over the tray of fried plantains. When fried, plantains, a starchier relative of the banana, are the quintessential summer treat. After eating basically my body weight in plantains at Kellie’s I immediately came home and fried some more for myself. I have no regrets.

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 Fried Plantains

4 over-ripe plantains

3 tbsp coconut oil

Honey or sour cream for dipping

Cut your plantains thinly, about 1/4″, and on the diagonal so the pieces are long and slanted. Melt coconut oil in the pan and fry for 3-4 minutes on each side, until golden brown and crisp. Serve hot on their own or with honey or sour cream to dip.

4/100: Wayne County Pickled Radishes

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One late summer day I sat on the front porch of our family home in Morehead City, a house we call the Swamp House, with my five siblings. At the time our ages probably ranged from 8 or 9 to 14 or 15, my sister Lauren and I at the top and my baby brother Ryan at the bottom. Ryan, bless his heart, was the willing participant in a series of dares in the late 90’s and early naughts. Being the youngest of six with a penchant to prove himself (not to mention the desire to actually win some cash) meant that he would accept any dare thrown his way from doing a naked somersault on the trampoline during Thanksgiving dinner to, on this beautiful Crystal Coast afternoon, drinking all the liquid in a gallon jar of pickles.

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Our weeks at the Swamp House meant pimento cheese, pickled okra, pound cake, freshly caught fish fried in the small kitchen, big pasta dinners, seafood boils, and, of course, gallon jars of Mt. Olive dill pickled cucumbers. Eight or nine people can go through an alarming amount of pickles, especially when some of those people are teenage boys, and by the end of the week we were left with just the dregs. The brine. Normally dumped into the marsh but on this occasion repurposed for our entertainment.

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Ryan got ¾ of the way through the jar before he started (forgive me) looking a little green. Not really wanting to part with the money I’d bet (because that money was reserved for buying sour straws at the City New Stand) I was torn on whether to encourage him. His success meant an amazing feat of endurance and a lighter load in my wallet. And while I may have started out rooting for his failure it’s difficult to watch someone take on such a task without getting behind them. Ryan was the underdog. He was David and that brine was Goliath. Unfortunately, his story ends a bit differently than King David’s. Instead of defeating the legendary warrior Ryan sucummbed with mere cups of brine left, and puked into the marsh. I can’t say for sure but I’m fairly certain this experience may have soured him on accepting bets.

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Years later that is still what I think about every time I see a Mt. Olive pickle. Mt. Olive Pickle Company, located at the corner of Cucumber and Vine in Mount Olive, Wayne County, North Carolina, was formed in the mid 1920s as a way to save cucumbers that were going to waste. A Lebanese immigrant from nearby Goldsboro by the name of Shrickey Baddour teamed up with a sailor from Wilmington named George Moore to execute his plan of taking local cucumbers, brining them, and selling them to area pickle plants. Unfortunately for Baddour and Moore they weren’t able to scrounge up any buyers. With the help of the local business community money was raised to create a plant that would process and sell pickles and the Mount Olive Pickle Company was born, the fledgling investment of thirty-seven shareholders. Moore became the factory superintendent, Baddour became the salesman, and Wayne County was forever changed.

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As we walked through the streets of Mt. Olive in late April I thought about Ryan and his pickle juice and how that act of determination and will was more of a tribute to pickles than the North Carolina Pickle Festival (founded in 1986 by Mt. Olive Pickle Co). In fact, our house in late summer probably has more pickled products than the North Carolina Pickle Festival in its entirety. But that’s another story for another day.

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Wayne County is overwhelmingly agricultural thanks to a mild year round climate and long no-freeze season. And while Mt. Olive does employ as many 500-800 workers depending on the season, you’ll also find manufacturing and processing of other animals and vegetables. Not to mention the three local colleges. Its county seat is Goldsboro and it is surrounded by Wilson to the north, Johnston and Sampson to the west, Duplin to the south, and Green and Lenoir to the East.

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It seemed only fitting that for the Wayne County edition of Tasting North Carolina I honor the pickle, but it was also important to me that I stay within the confines of the local growing season, which meant that no cucumber pickles were put up this weekend (though my cucumber plants are doing wonderfully in the front yard garden). I picked up two bunches of radishes at our food co-op; one bunch went into a jar with salt, water, ginger, and rose peppercorns to lactoferment and the other went into a jar with vinegar, salt, ginger, and rose peppercorns to vinegar pickle. My vinegar pickles will be done by the end of the week and my fermented pickles will be done by the end of the month, which means before I know it I’ll have crunchy, delicious, sour pickles just waiting to be thrown in a salad, tossed on top of a sandwich, or mixed into pasta. No drinking the brine, though. Those days have passed.

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Lacto Fermented Radish Pickles

1 ½ pint mason jar

1 bunch radishes

1 inch ginger root

1 tbsp rose peppercorns

1 tsp kosher salt

2 cups filtered water

In a pot of boiling water, sterilize jar and lid.

Wash and thinly slice radishes. Dissolve the salt in the water. Place radishes in sterilized jar with peeled and sliced ginger and peppercorns. Pour water over until it reaches the top and the radishes are completely covered. Loosely cover and store in a cool, dark, place for 10-14 days, checking every few days to make sure everything is submerged. After the pickles have fermented they can be stored in the fridge for up to a month.

Vinegar Pickled Radishes

1 ½ pint mason jar

1 bunch radishes

1 inch ginger root

1 tbsp rose peppercorn

1 tsp kosher salt

2 cups distilled white vinegar

In a pot of boiling water, sterilize jar and lid.

Wash and thinly slice radishes. Place radishes in sterilized jar with peeled and sliced ginger, salt and peppercorns. Pour vinegar over until it reaches the top and the radishes are completely covered. Cover and place in the refrigerator. Let sit 24-48 hours before eating. These will last in the fridge for up to a month.