Giardiniera. Wanna Fight About It?
Fight about it? You may not even know what it is. You might be even more uncertain about how to pronounce it. Definitely not worth fisticuffs!
Let me get you started. The Oxford dictionary defines "giardiniere" (note the lack of final “a”) as an Italian word meaning "diced, mixed vegetables, cooked and pickled". It loosely translates to “gardener” in English.
Okay, that seems logical. Now how do you pronounce that strange word? GEE-ARR-DIN-AIR? GWAR-DIN-ERA? JARR-DEE-A? Good tries, but no. The correct pronunciation of giardiniera is “JAR-DIN-AIR-AH”. If you want to sound fancy, you could try rrrrrolling all the rrrrs. JARRRR-DIN-AIRRRR-AH.
So, short of a brawl breaking out because you garble the name, why all the drama? Well, let’s just say it’s a Chicago thing. Or an Italian thing. Or a relish versus garnish thing. It is absolutely a thing that can ignite passionate debate.
There are two main styles of giardiniera. Italian style and Chicago style. What both styles have in common is the fact that they consist of an assortment of vegetables that have been first brined, then pickled in an oil and vinegar blend. The rest is the stuff to fight about. An Italian style giardiniera is typically served as one element of an antipasto platter. The vegetables are kept in distinct chunks, seasoned with garlic and oregano, and the marinade is red or white wine vinegar and olive oil. Chicago style giardiniera vegetables are uniformly chopped, seasoned with any number of herbs and spices but always include a kick of hot peppers that can range from a tiny tingle to hair-on-fire hot.
Chicago style is a condiment, while Italian style is a snack. Most often, both styles incorporate many of the same vegetables (though not always….but let’s not go there) including cauliflower, celery, red bell pepper and crinkle cut carrots. Is it mandatory to crinkle cut your carrots? No, because they will be all chopped up in a Chicago giardiniera anyway, but I just think it looks cool and I have a crinkle cutter that I don’t get to use as often as I’d like. But I digress.
This could be how fights get started…..
The recipe I am sharing is my attempt at giardiniera détente. All the common veggies are included, along with some jalapeño for heat, but they are neither large nor chopped. Juuuuust right. They are excellent with cured meats and cheeses, piled onto an Italian beef sandwich, or even tossed with pasta. Dress a hot dog or burger with some or all of the elements and use the marinade as a flavorful salad dressing or dip for crudité. Big chunks, small dice or right in between, all you have to do is enjoy your giardiniera. No need to fight about it!
Makes at least 4 cups
2 jalapeño peppers, thinly sliced (seeds removed if desired)
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 celery ribs, sliced
1 cup carrot, peeled and sliced
2 1/2 cups cauliflower, cut into small to medium florets
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2 cup kosher salt (or sea salt)
2 teaspoons oregano, dried
1 teaspoon basil, dried
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
1/2 tablespoon whole peppercorns
1-2 bay leaves
1 1/2 cups white or apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
Mix all the vegetables (EXCEPT the GARLIC!) together in a non-reactive bowl or container. Pour in all of the salt. Add enough water to cover the vegetables and stir to combine. All of the salt may not appear dissolved, but that is okay. Cover the bowl or container and place in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours or overnight.
After the soaking period is over, pour off the water and rinse the vegetables thoroughly to remove any excess salt.
Place vegetables in a clean glass bowl or jar.
Chop the garlic and add it to the vegetables along with the oregano, basil, celery seed, peppercorns and bay leaves.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil and the vinegar. Pour the oil and vinegar dressing over the vegetables. Stir to combine. Cover tightly and let veggies marinate in the refrigerator for 48 hours before serving. Keeps several weeks in the fridge if not gobbled up immediately!