Saturday, March 24, 2012

Pickled Buds of Joy

You know the post I wrote about the lacinato kale in the garden that I can't seem to pull out? The one that recently started producing, as contributor Jim Dixon would call it, "immature flower buds from various cabbage relatives" that are commonly called (cover your ears, Jim) raab, rabe or rapini.

Not to get off topic, but my son has been expressing an interest in making pickles for some time. So I consulted my favorite pickle meister, Kevin Gibson, who makes some of the best pickles in town at Evoe, as to what book might be the best introduction to the art. He suggested a slim volume titled Tsukemono: Japanese Pickling Recipes by Ikuko Hisamatsu, which contains lots of quick pickle recipes using relatively common ingredients. What's even better is that my son happens to love Asian flavors, so I immediately ran next door to Powell's on Hawthorne and picked it up.

In that book is a recipe for Rape Flowers in Mustard or Nanohana Karashi-zuke that require just 45 minutes from start to finish, the main ingredient of which we could get by stepping out the back door. It did require a trip to our neighborhood Asian grocery but, as promised, within 45 minutes of starting the prep, we were munching on some surprisingly tasty green pickles. Excellent!

Rape Flowers in Mustard (Nanohana Karashi-zuke)
Adapted from Quick & Easy Tsukemono: Japanese Pickling Recipes by Ikuko Hisamatsu

1 lb. rape, raab or rapini
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1/2 Tbsp. hot mustard paste (karashi)
1 Tbsp. mirin
1 Tbsp. light soy sauce
1 dried chile pepper

Cut off any tough stems of rape flowers. Tear off leaves. In a pot of lightly salted boiling water, cook leaves and flowers briefly just until the color changes. (We chopped up the stems and threw them in first to cook a little more before we added the leaves and buds, and they worked fine.) Plunge into cold water to stop cooking. Drain and squeeze out as much water as possible.

Place in bowl, pour 1 Tbsp. soy sauce over the green and combine. Squeeze again to remove moisture. Mix with remaining seasonings and stir well. Remove seeds from chile pepper and mince. (We left the seeds in.) Add to greens mixture and combine. Take a small plate that will fit inside the bowl and place it over the greens. Take a jar filled with water (or a pint glass) and place it on top of the plate, pressing down the greens. Let it stand for 30 minutes. Serve.

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