Monday, August 28, 2006

One Flash of Light But No Smoking Pickle

Usually when I'm invited to a special party, I worry about what I'm going to wear.
For yesterday's special party, the Second Annual Bay Area Food Bloggers' Picnic, I worried about what I was going to cook.
Was I in a pickle? No. In a flash of light, I solved my problem by deciding not to cook.
I pickled.
And considering that the party guests were People of Palate, I decided no ordinary pickles would do. I needed to challenge taste buds. I wanted to break rules. I had to respect my own Cookiecrumb nutcase personality.
So I made Strange Pickles.
I won't say they were entirely successful. In some cases I think I could have used a little more restraint. A little more finesse.
But I'm proud of my crazy attempt, and a couple of the finished pickles were really good.
So: Top row, left, is green beans marinated in blackberry vodka, vinegar and bay leaves. They were a little too crunchy, and the cut ends of the beans sucked up berry stain, which is pretty if you know what you're looking at, but maybe not so pretty if you don't.
Center dish holds fresh blueberries marinated in an exhilarating syrup of vinegar, sugar and black pepper. A couple of cloves, too. The berries only bathed for a couple of days, so not a lot of infusion occurred, but the flavor was right on.
Right top dish holds okra pickled in vinegar, fennel-infused vodka, chili peppers and fennel pollen. I think that came out plain weird.
Things get really good on the bottom row, though.
Left dish holds locally foraged pickleweed, aka seabeans, samphire, glasswort, or salicornia. When they were freshly cut, the aroma was surprisingly nice: sort of greenish, floral, a tad marshy and utterly new-smelling. I tried to imitate that with a pickling brine of vinegar, salt, and the 3 C's — coriander, caraway and cloves. It was just right. Pickleweed is crisp and tender, all at once, and it grows right down the road. Heaven.
The center dish was my second-most ambitious attempt, and possibly the most successful. I immersed Rainier cherries in a blend of sage/mint-infused vodka and vinegar, and tossed in a few sage leaves, bay leaves and a handful of lavender buds. It sat in the fridge for a couple of weeks, and emerged jewel-like and exotically perfumed.
Finally, in the last dish is — well, maybe these are the smoking pickles. They were kind of smoky-tasting, anyway. They are mushrooms briefly warmed in olive oil, then marinated in vinegar mixed with coffee-vanilla infused vodka, with a few sprigs of rosemary. Our generous party host, Owen, tried a cherry first, then a mushroom. Pretty soon he went back and ate another cherry.
Maybe he just needed to get that taste out of his mouth.

Update: This is such a cheap trick, and I resorted to the same cop-out last year, but for a super-duper report on the picnic, go read Sam's gorgeously redesigned blog. And she links to a whole slew of other reports and photos that are graciously less self-centered than mine.


Owen said...

Hey! I resemble that! Actually I took a cherry and ran it into the house for my long-suffering SO to sample. I cam back later for the samphire, green beans and okra. Didn't do the bluebabies.

All were excellent and truly innovative. I would say that you have created a true classic in the samphire/sea bean and in the cherries. I also like the other three I tried very much - particularly the okra (even though you didnt like it so much, I did and my SO thought it the BEST of them all - she's from Georgia and liked the crispness and lack of slime).

Anyway the biggest treat was meting you and Cranky.

Sam said...

You have reason to be proud, oh, Ms Maker of the most inspired offering on the picnic table!

Unknown said...

So seriously, Rob will not shut up about how much he loved your cherries, blueberries, and green beans. He didn't know who made them and was actually looking on the internet on where he could buy some.

LOL, I don't suppose you could throw some recipes our way, could you?

cookiecrumb said...

Ha ha! Owen, I was duly impressed by your discernment when I dared you to try a couple of bites. So I'm especially grateful for the compliments. Meeting you was pure frosting. You're tiptop.

Sam: Let me share with our readers how knowledgeable you are about odd foods. You recognized the seabeans in a trice. (I will be your purveyor, BTW.) I'm really flattered.

Garrett: No kidding? Thanks! I couldn't really give you precise recipes, but you should know that these were "quick pickles"; i.e. not processed. Aren't you a vanilla-garlic experimenter? You'll come up with something!

Greg said...

Deluscious!! Grand to meet you and Cranky

Cyndi said...

Sure wish I lived in northern Cal. And for more reasons than being able to join you all in a picnic. But I bet the picnic was a blast!

Liz said...

Salty Horn. James will not believe that you served salicornia pickles to foodies (he studied it for his masters thesis). Too weird.

But it all looks gorgeous.

Kalyn Denny said...

Your pickles look awesome. Biggles heard that I had relatives in California that I visit once in a while and he was sweet enough to invite me to the picnic, but then school started so that was the end of my California visits for a while. Darn. I would have loved to meet all you guys.

I just tagged you for Five Things to Eat Before You Die Hope you don't mind doing it.

Anonymous said...

I didn't actually get to meet you - but I did spot you from a few feet away! Next time...

cookiecrumb said...

Greg: Moi aussi! You are a dear (and a neighbor), and loads of fun. Your wife is a dream.

Cyndi: We're thinking of taking it national next year, or even international. How big is your backyard? :)

Sher: Well, see, now you've educated me. I have that damn cookbook (it's lovely to read but I find it so hard to use), and I didn't know Judy Rodgers addresses glasswort in it. Oh boy! Thanks.

Liz: Ooh, linguistic high jinks. Ha ha. Yeah, we actually ate that stuff.

Kalyn: Bless Biggles. He's the very, very best. I wish I could have met you too (and I read your blog; I know you've been in the Bay Area and will probably return!). Thanks for the tag! I like this one.

Jennifer: My fault. I actually looked for you and finally decided (wrong) you didn't attend. We'll meet on local turf, eh?

Anonymous said...

Reading about your pickles and the wonderful day (on your post and others') I regret my not being a blogger! Those pickling ideas are wizard.

Dagny said...

So what if you did it last year. If it ain't broke, then don't fix it. It all looked yummy to me.

shuna fish lydon said...

Well I needed to stay away from the vodka but I gazed upon your little square dishes and ate up the color scheme! And I ate your words too, they are still digesting, thanks for sharing them with me. :}

Did I mention how splendid you and Cranky looked? Just fabulous! Thank you for blogging you cookiecranks/crankycrumbs!

MizD said...

Them pickles are freaky!

So hey, I just discovered that Portland has a foodie forum and people here actually have real live get-togethers! Imagine that! I mean, up where we were, there was one other food blog one island away and everyone else was still writing about what they ate for lunch with charcoal sticks on papyrus leaves, I swear.

(This is my roundabout way of saying I'm going to try real hard not to be jealous of Bay Area Bloggers anymore. :-P)

Ilva said...

This is true inspiration CC! I wish I was there.

Jennifer Maiser said...

I think I had a dream about these pickles, after reading about them yesterday. The most enticing to me are the mushrooms. Mmmmmm.

cookiecrumb said...

Mary: Well, I trust your palate, and Owen's too. Neat-O!

Kudzu: Well, you know what they say around here: "Get a Blog!" Your presence would have been a grace note.

Dagny: That's what friends (and links!) are for.

Shuna: It never occurred to me that I should label them as containing alky-holl. Thanks just the same, and for all those other endearments, dear.

Mrs. D: Now you don't get to be a grouchy hermit anymore. (Hey! You must be back online... yay.)

Ilva: Thank you. If you had been at the picnic, I think we would have just eaten you up!!!

Yo, Jen: Well, remember the mushrooms I marinated in sake/shoyu that evoked an audible groan from you? Like that, but stranger!!

Rachael Narins said...

i so admire your ambition. beautiful presentation, and terrific sounding ideas.


...and of course...I wish I could have been there to try some!

cookiecrumb said...

Aw, man... Thanks, Rachael! It was a super event, but I think it was really hell on the organizers. The rest of us just showed up and stuffed our faces like the lucky bastards we are.

Anonymous said...

I just realized I never told you that I included your entry in a mini pickle roundup I did awhile ago (or did I? I can't find my comment.)

Here's the link, enjoy:

cookiecrumb said...

Hey, Hillary: OMG, that was a year ago! Thank you. I'll go take a peek.