Monday, September 13, 2010

Giardiniera is for Lovers

I write this blog not because I love food, but because I love people. Sometimes with the fast pace of our modern and disconnected lifestyles, we forget to talk about what we are eating and why we choose to eat it. Food is powerful; the most powerful form of currency we’ve got. And when we share it and the unique traditions that we associate with our food, we’re forming and transforming and negotiating relationships. I would suspect that 99% of the talented people who participate in Foodbuzz and other food-related communities do so out of their love for sharing stories more than the actual food they write about. That’s what makes our meals, menus and stories so gosh-darn special.

Tales from the Fruit Cellar is unique because I always feature the people at the heart of the recipe and the relationships and heritages that are bound by what we perceive to be our individual food culture. I love to instigate a discourse about why we step into our kitchens in the first place and I hold myself responsible for acting as a virtual scribe to record the conversations. I'm eager to bring people back to a tradition-based food system, regardless of how the individual defines "tradition". I love to celebrate the fact that we all define tradition in myriad ways.

I generally power up my computer to write not because I’m so worked up about a recipe, but because I can’t wait to tell you about the people that have become inextricably linked with that recipe. Today, I’ve got a love story for you.

Eric and I met in 2008 on the island of St. John in the Caribbean. He was from Indianapolis, I from DC. We didn’t want anything to do with long distance. A few months later, we were heavy in the throes of a Long. Distance. Relationship. Sigh.

For those of you who would rather eat worms that get involved with someone who lives over 50 miles away, I’m here to tell you: long distance really isn’t all that terrible. When you’ve got a full and busy life, it’s actually quite nice to set aside chunks of time to spend 100% focused on one another. It’s exciting to fly back and forth and discover a new town you wouldn’t have found otherwise. Especially when that town has Goose the Market.

Eric and I fell in love over a sandwich. Seriously. You know how its way more enjoyable to eat a hot fudge sundae with someone who oohs and ahhs over it as loudly as you? Well foodies about the globe know what I mean when I say that falling in love with a person feels much more punch drunk when your time with that person is punctuated by fabulous food you’re equally smitten with. For us, that was the Batali sandwich. Oh my goodness…I can’t even write about it without feeling wispy nostalgia tear at my heart.

Goose the Market, in Indianapolis, is like a souk for the modern Midwest urban explorer. Filling a brightly colored store-front in a newly reclaimed part of the city, Goose opened in 2008 and knocked the pants right off the Indy food scene. Would you like to join a Bacon of the Month club? At Goose, you can. Need to find blue-ribbon local cheeses? They’ve got it. Hungry for gelato? Hit it up. But under no circumstances should you ever leave the market without a Batali.

A Batali is actually a simple sandwich, but the combination of flavors and the integrity of the meats make it outstanding. It's coppa, soppressata, capocolla, sharp provolone, tomato preserves, pickled red onion, hot giardiniera, mayo and lettuce on crusty bread.

So here we are: Eric and I, deep in that early intoxication phase of love, when he takes me to the newly opened Goose and we share a Batali. It was like our eyes were opened to what sandwiches were always meant to be. I'm entirely serious when I say it was a religious experience. We went back the next day for another Batali. I started picking them up on the way to the airport for my lunch in DC the next day (it NEVER made it to lunchtime). When Eric would eat one without me, I always knew it. My sixth-Batali sense would ring in my ears. He would admit to it, full of shame. I couldn't ever judge him. If I could, I'd eat them all the time as well.

The next thing you know it’s a once a month occurrence where I’m running to find my new love at the baggage claim at Reagan airport, giving him a quick kiss hello and saying “where’s my sandwich??” Tourists in DC would watch us, thinking that I must not eaten for days with the way I am ravenously tearing into a sandwich at baggage claim. Eric watches with a little frustration that I’m paying no attention to my freshly arrived boyfriend, but with a little pride too. “That’s my girl”, he thinks. “Can I have a bite?” he says. We share a greasy, spicy kiss and the Batali is gone in under 5 minutes.

Eric and I now live just two hours apart: he in school at VCU in Richmond, me still in DC. When he arrived in Richmond this past winter, I wrote a love letter to Goose, imploring them to share the secret of the Batali with me. Graciously, they shared their recipes and we attempted our first recreation of the Batali in Richmond. The issue is that while our recreation came out mostly alright, we used a jarred Giardiniera that seemed to have no spice or sass. I spent a few sleepless nights wondering what went wrong before deciding that the Giardiniera is what left our homemade Batali lacking. So we said "let's try again, but make the Giardiniera ourselves".

Like many of my recipes, this one is a classic, banal item that you probably buy in a jar at the grocery store. But the secret is that its unfailingly simple to make at home where you have more control over what you put in the jar. Use organics and quality vinegar or oil; I promise you’ll be glad you did. We used a lot of super extra hot peppers, again from Clagett Farm, and we tried both the oil method and the vinegar method to see which we preferred. The answer is: I like to mix a tablespoon out of the oil jar and a tablespoon out of the vinegar jar!

Hot Giardiniera

About 1.5 pounds mixed hot peppers (jalepenos are perfect, we used green chilies too)
2 red or green bell peppers cut into strips

3 stalks celery, sliced thinly

3 carrots, sliced thinly

2 cups cauliflower cut into mini florets

1 whole garlic clove for each jar (cleaned)

1 cup good quality green olives, sliced (we used garlic marinated ones off the olive bar at Whole Foods)

1/2 cup kosher canning salt

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon pepper corns

1/2 tablespoon hot pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds

Olive oil for your oil-packed jars

White distilled vinegar and sugar for your vinegar jars

Cut all of the veggies to the size and shape you prefer. I left the seeds in half of the peppers since we like them hot. Toss all of the cut veggies in a large bowl with the kosher salt EXCEPT the olives. Add enough water to just cover the veggies. Cover and let sit in the salt bath in the fridge overnight or for at least 12 hours.

The next day drain and rinse really, really well. I irrigated the whole bowl for a good 30 minutes, swishing and draining in fresh water. Let drain well.

Toss the veggies with the olives and the oregano, hot pepper flakes, fennel seeds and peppercorns. Drop a whole garlic clove into the bottom of each jar and pack the jars with veggies. Cover with olive oil and give it a lid.

If you prefer to use vinegar, simmer 1 cup white vinegar with 1/4 cup sugar. When all dissolved, pour the hot vinegar over the veggies in the jar. Some recipes claim you can mix the vinegar and oil but it seems the vinegar and oil separates anyways.

I didn't process the Giardineira, so it's got to be kept in the fridge. However, you can process the vinegar ones for 15 minutes in a canner and give away very colorful holiday gifts.

We haven't re-made the sandwiches yet, but I'm gearing up to make the onions and tomato preserves. Undoubtedly, the act of making a Batali will make me think fondly of my now-seasoned relationship and our first sparks of love. When you think back to your favorite recipe, who are the people that make it special for you?


  1. What a cute story! I love how important this sandwich is in your relationship.
    And yay VCU! I work there and love it.

  2. An important introduction omitted from this spectacular little love story - Eric prepared an incredibly delicious and simple sandwhich delicacy for Jill's dear friend Joy while he courted Jilly in St. John. They had known each other for only a handful of days - Jilly had not yet known Indy with Ejj or had this Giardineira but the joyous one happily gobbled down a heavenly hummus sandwhich while she sailed back to mainland, saying farewell to her new friend and romanced stricken bug..Talk about an auspicious begininning for Jilly and Ejj.

  3. Ahhh, fond memories of falling in love over delectable cuts of meat and bread. I think we're onto the next step of re-creating the Batali and working out those subtle flavors that we were missing last time. Although, even if it doesn't turn out exactly the same, we will still have amazing sandwiches to Ooo and Ahhh over together. I love our story…and Batali's.

  4. This is a precious story and the perfect example of how food, love and life coexist. Now I just need to try my hand at that giardiniera recipe!

  5. So excited that this recipe made the post! I still remember one of our walks home from work where you explained the secret ingredient to this amazing sandwich (love-wich?). What a great post - next up, let's get you a store front where you can actually produce these so DC can get a taste too!

  6. That is a wonderful story!! I would love to find one of these sandwiches in DC--can you suggest where to find it?
    My fondest memory of a recipe is my mom's apple cobbler. It came out of a recipe book she found almost 30 years ago in Dublin and is one of the most valuable things we own.

  7. I love the freshness in peppers. They all look so good.

  8. My Fiance and I dated long distance for 4 years, I think its a wonderful way to get to know someone! Congrats on your first post and good luck!

  9. I love your love story, and you get my vote, mainly because of your approach, and partly because I have a daughter and son in DC and live about a long hour from Richmond (I just posted about the Black Sheep)!! Best of luck!

  10. Distance makes the heart grow fonder, and giardiniera makes the love grow hotter. :)
    Hope you guys find yourselves closer sooner. You've got my vote!
    -Speakeasy Kitchen

  11. Love the romantic, cute story, the sound of that amazing sandwich, and this giardiniera recipe. Nice look to your blog, too. You've got my vote! Good luck to you :)

  12. What a clever entry -- and romantic story. Good luck.

  13. How timely. I'm making an egg delivery to Indianapolis today...and I love the Batali, too. Goose the Market, here I come! May your DC Batali quest and your romance continue to blossom.