Do you need an easy recipe for a knock-out relish-type appetizer for a holiday buffet spread? Today, I am making a wonderful recipe of “Giardiniera” or “Italian Pickled Vegetables.” This colorful conbination of vegetables is quick pickled in a flavorful brine and then marinated in the refrigerator. It makes a welcome addition to any holiday buffet. Very nutritious, too. Plus, the recipe gave me a way a to use some of the large crop of serrano and banana peppers which grew in my summer garden. The peppers are just the ingredients to make a sparky, Italian relish. Usually this recipe takes several days to process; but I got a late start and needed an appetizer “in a hurry” for a buffet party. I devised a method to make these pickled vegetables in just one afternoon. I am pleased with the results.
What is Giardiniera?
Giardiniera — which translates to “garden” in Italian — means different things in different parts of the world. In New Orleans, the vegetables are cut into a very fine dice and used on Muffaletto sandwiches. In other parts of the world, the vegetables are cut into bite-size chunks, pickled and served as an appetizer. An interesting feature of giardinera recipes is that cauliflower, carrots, red peppers and celery are almost always included. Plus, some recipes are loaded with olives. Put this mix on a sandwich? They do in New Orleans. (Of course, for the New Orleans version, the vegetables are cut much smaller than shown in this photo.)
In Italy, the relish is made with large chunks of pickled vegetables which are served as a side dish, appetizer or on an antipasto platter. Chicago has a large Italian population and their own giardiniera version. In this city, giardiniera is an oil based concoction and vinegar may be omitted entirely. The condiment can be quite hot due to the addition of red pepper flakes. Often roast beef sandwiches are topped with giardiniera in the windy city.
New Orleans Central Grocery Store and Muffaletto Sandwiches
New Orleans experienced a sizable influx of Sicilaian immigrants in the latter part of the 19th century and they still maintain an influence in the city. For example, the Central Grocery Store in the French Quarter was founded by Sicilian immigrants in 1906. In New Orleans, the vegetables for giardiniera recipes are cut into a very fine dice, chopped olives are included; then the mix is pickled. A little oil is added and the concoction is served as a condiment for Italian Muffaletto sandwiches. Yum, this sandwich spread is just a little addictive. A stop at the Central Grocery Store is often on our “to do” list when we visit the French Quarter of New Orleans. This Italian grocery store serves the best Muffaletto sandwiches ever.
My Giardiniera Recipe
For my buffet party, I made a chunky version of giardiniera, cutting the vegetables into bite size pieces.
The vegetables included in my recipe are cauliflower, carrots, celery, olives and an assortment of peppers from my garden. For this batch, I used both sweet and hot banana peppers, a Big Jim pepper and a serrano pepper. Usually a red pepper is included in the recipe but some of my garden peppers were turning red. Peppers grow very well in Louisiana gardens. This year, I really went all out and planted about every variety of pepper available. Since this is November and we are no longer in “summer” the gardening mode, I will purchase sweet red peppers for my next batches.
My pickling brine included lots of aromatic spices which gave a great flavor to the giardiniera. Plus, the white wine vinegar gave the brine a sweet, flavorful aspect to the appetizer. I used both ground mustard and mustard seeds, celery seeds, coriander seeds, oregano (not shown) and black peppercorns. The brine contained white wine vinegar mixed with water and with course salt added.
Typically, when making Italian giardiniera recipes, the vegetable chuncks are placed in a salt water for several hours to overnight. After draining off the salt water, a vinegar pickling brine is added, the mixture may sit for several days before being served. To speed things up, I steamed the vegetables chunks just a few minutes until tender crisp. Then I added the vinegar pickling mixture with seasonings. Perhaps, cheating — but it worked.
Here are the the 3 steps for making my recipe:
Chop up the vegetables into bite-sized chunks. Soak the chopped vegetables in a salt and ice water brine for at least an hour.
Drain off the salty brine and rinse the vegetables. Then steam for about five minutes until tender crisp. Use a large pot, add water to about 1″ and cover. Bring to a boil and then lower the temperature and steam. Only a few minutes are needed.
Drain and immerse the vegetables in the pickling liquid. Add in the olives. Weight the mixture down with a plate. Cover and refrigerate for several hours.
That’s my simple recipe. Transfer to an attractive serving bowl and serve with a slotted spoon. This healthy and colorful vegetable medley is just right for any festive occasion. The crunchy vegetables and olives in this giardiniera dish are quite tasty. And, I made it on time to my buffet party in the evening and came home with an empty dish! Enjoy!
Quick Italian Giardiniera
- 2 cups (1 lb head) cauliflower, chopped into small florets
- 1 cup (2 stalks) celery, sliced
- 1 cup baby carrots
- 1 cup assorted peppers, seeded and cut into chunks (sweet red pepper, banana peppers, serrano pepper)
- 2-12 Tbsp course salt or pickling salt, divided
- 1 cup olives with pimentos
- 1 cup white wine vinegar
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp celery seeds
- 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
- 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
- 1/4 tsp dried mustard powder
- 1/4 tsp whole black peppercorns
Method and Steps:
- Prep all the vegetables. Cut caulifower into bite sized pieces. Slice celery into 1″ slices on the diagonal. Seed peppers and cut into 1″ chunks.
- Place all the vegetables in a large non-reactive pot or bowl Plur 2 Tbsp course salt or pickling salt over the vegetables and toss to combine. Pour ice over the vegetables. Let set at room temperature for at least one hour.
- Pour off melted ice and rinse the vegetables in a colander to remove excess salt.
- Transfer the vegetables to a large pot. Add water to 1″ depth. Bring to a boil, lower heat, partially cover and steam for 5 minutes until vegetables are just tender when pierced with a knife. Do not overcook.
- Remove from heat, transfer to a colander and drain off cooking liquid.
- Transfer vegetables to a large non-reactive bowl. Add in olives.
- Prepare vinegar pickling liquid. Add wite wine vinegar, water and remaining 1/2 Tbsp salt to a saucepan. Add all the spices — oregano, celery seeds, coriander seeds, yellow mustard seeds, dried mustard powder, whole black peppercorns to the saucepan. Bring to boil on stove, stir to dissolve salt.
- Pour the vinegar pickling liquid over the vegetables. Weight down with a plate so all the vegetables are submerged and cover bowl with plastic wrap. Refrigerate — ideally refrigerate for 4 hours — or at least until chilled.
- When ready to serve, transfer vegetables and olives to decorative serving bowl along with some of the pickling liquid, if desired. Use a slotted spoon for serving.