If you’re new to vegetable fermentation, you likely look at recipes and think, “Can it be that easy?” This instantly leads to the terrifying thought, “It can’t; surely I’ll get it wrong.” So to kick off this month’s recipes for vegetable ferments, I offer my most foolproof recipe for your first foray into fermentation. Here, the carrots actually aren’t fully fermented; they sit barely long enough to kick off the process. Still, they use a lot of the techniques that apply to full fermentation of other vegetables: salting, weighting to encourage the carrots to release even liquid, and a rest period to pull even more water and sugars from the produce. Because these carrots are prepared as thin ribbons, it’s easy to open the jar and slide a few onto a sandwich, into a sourdough pita, or straight into your mouth. The recipe is so simple that while you’re at it, you might as well prepare your own horseradish to go in the jar—especially if you’re growing it.
Learn to make Barely Fermented Carrots and Horseradish Paste
If you grew up eating mushy cooked carrots from a school cafeteria or overworked mom, you’ll probably be tempted to skip over this recipe. I urge you to give it a chance. Carrots cooked in an open pan and glazed by a little butter and sugar remain bright and crisp-tender, like properly cooked pasta or Grilled Asparagus, with just a hint of bonus sweetness. Try it once, and you’ll never boil carrots again.
Although the recipe works with any carrots—store bought or homegrown, baby carrots in May or storage carrots in January—it shines in August. The carrots I pull in late summer are finger thick, crunchy, and naturally sweet. Best of all, they come with gorgeous green, feathery tops that can be mixed into a tasty, herb-heavy salsa. If you aren’t growing your own carrots, ask your farmer to leave the tops intact and use them the day you pick them up at the market or receive your CSA share.
Learn to make Glazed Carrots and Carrot-Top and Herb Salsa
If you grow a giant garden, each day’s harvest fills multiple boxes and baskets and then every spare corner of your refrigerator. But if you grow a more reasonably sized garden, your harvest likely comes in dibs and dabs: a couple of cucumbers and tomatoes, perhaps a pepper, a small mound of greens, a handful of herbs. Combining these garden-fresh favorites into a meal that showcases your effort often means coming up short for a standard recipe.
This is why I love fillings and stuffings; the ingredients are endlessly variable, a little goes a long way, and the result is a sparkling-fresh meal that highlights produce just off the vine. Whether you’re filling summer rolls, stuffing squash blossoms, or even building Grilled Fish Tacos, the key is to use less filling than you think you’ll need. A gentle hand while wrapping delicate rice paper or petals around that filling is also essential for success.
Learn to make Summer Rolls and Stuffed Squash Blossoms
When I think of fresh pickles, I immediately envision a platter of sushi, accompanied by pickled ginger (gari) and preceded by a quickly pickled cucumber salad (kyuri asazuke). The Japanese know a thing or two about pickling. They find a range of uses for pickled foods, including condiment, relish, garnish, palate cleanser, and digestive aid. Small portions of these foods can appear at any meal, even breakfast. Traditional Japanese pickles feature ingredients ranging from vegetables to eggs to fish to even cherry blossoms.
In America, the primary exposure to Japanese pickles comes as an appetizer before a meal and as a palate cleanser during it. A favorite local sushi restaurant serves sunomono, small portions of freshly pickled cucumber salad, before every meal—so of course I needed to come up with a version for our home-rolled, and more importantly boat-rolled, sushi nights. This salad is best made fresh when cucumbers are in season. Learn to make Quick-Pickled Cucumber Salad and Pickled Ginger