Monday, November 26, 2012

Fall-Time Escabeche

I love all kinds of pickled vegetables. And with all the great produce we get in Austin, I find myself making pickles pretty regularly.

Growing up, I ate a lot of Mexican food at a little neighborhood taqueria in Chicago. The place, called La Fiesta, is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (and has been for as long as I can remember).

When you sit down there, nice ladies bring out a basket of chips with a bowl of salsa and a bowl of escabeche, a spicy and sour jalapeno and carrot pickle. A few other places in the neighborhood put in other vegetables, like cauliflower, but I always chose La Fiesta because of their spicier version, as well as their giant burritos (which NEVER have rice in them).

And in Austin, this is the season when carrots and jalapenos are ripe at the same time. And because cauliflower and onions are also in season here, I put those in too.

First, I chopped all the vegetables up. I could only get tiny carrots at the market, but they were sweet and tender.


Then I sauteed them in a little bit of olive oil. I got a couple of jars together and put a few peppercorns, a few coriander seeds, and a little bit of dried oregano in each one. (Normally, I'd add a bay leaf or two to each jar, but I was out.)

I made a brine with water, vinegar, and salt and heated it to dissolve the salt. Then I packed the veggies into the jars, covered them with the brine, and slapped a couple of lids on them. When they were cool, I stuck them in the fridge, where they'd start curing.

I'll find out in a couple of days how it went. The hardest part is waiting. For the flavors to really come together, it takes at least a few days, but really, it's better after a week or so. It's got to be refrigerated, since the jars are unprocessed, but they seem to keep for a few months. I have a jar in the fridge from earlier in the season (sans cauliflower), and it's really delicious.

This is more of a guideline. You can use whatever vegetables are available, and flavor the brine with different spices. But for me, it always has to have at least carrots and jalapenos.

4 cups bite-size vegetables 
3 to 4 jalapenos, sliced into rings
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup water
1 cup vinegar (I used mostly cider vinegar, with a little bit of white vinegar.)
1 heaping teaspoon kosher salt
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon oregano

Saute the veggies and jalapenos in the olive until just beginning to become tender, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the water, vinegar, and salt, stirring until the salt dissolves.

Divide the bay leaves, peppercorns, coriander seeds, and oregano between 2 pint-size jars. Pack the vegetables into the jars and pour the brine over. Cover the jars with lids and allow to cool to room temperature. Let it sit in the fridge for at least a few days before eating. They should last a few months, but they usually get eaten much quicker.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Bouldin Brunch


Last weekend, we went to Bouldin Creek Coffeehouse for brunch. It's a place we go to a lot. It's in the neighborhood, the food is really good (plus pretty healthy and all vegetarian), and the staff are nice.

We usually go for dinner, and tend not to even try brunch. On Saturday and Sunday mornings, the place can get pretty crowded. But we decided to chance it, and walked on over. The host told us we'd have to wait about 20 minutes, and we decided that'd be okay. It would have taken us at least that long to walk back to the house, get the car, and drive somewhere else.

So we got one of those goofy little buzzer things and went outside. Our table was ready in about 5 minutes, which was a really nice surprise.

We got the special, which was biscuits and gravy, and a tofu-broccoli salad. The salad is something I get pretty often.

Biscuits and gravy

Tofu and broccoli salad
The biscuits and gravy were really satisfying. The biscuits were light, and the mushroom gravy was rich and savory. The salad was great. I love the salty, sesame-flavored broccoli that's cooked but still nice and crisp. They also put on a ton of sunflower sprouts, which are really fresh and nutty. And the garlic-tahini dressing is earthy and comforting.

To drink, I tried the Kool Keith, made from two shots of espresso and chocolate syrup, over ice. The drink was served in a pint glass, making it much bigger than I expected, but it was sweet and refreshing. And caffeinated.

We'll still be back for dinner probably a lot sooner than we'll be back in for brunch, but I would definitely try it again.