Traverse City Record-Eagle

Rebecca Lindamood: Foodie With Family

July 26, 2010

Foodie with Family: Garden of Delights

Cucumbers turn into garlicky pickles

I wandered out to the garden to check on progress one steamy morning last week, not expecting to see anything other than a nice bunch of leaves, healthy stalks and a few blossoms. I carefully moved a spike-covered cucumber plant and got the shock of my life; cucumbers had arrived early. Very early. There were a lot of them. And cucumbers wait for no man. It was time to pickle.

After a quick detour back to the house to fetch a colander and some gardening gloves, I skipped back to the cucumber plants. Accompanying me was my pickle hound of a 6-year-old who ran at top speed yelling, "Pickles! We grew pickles! This is the happiest day of my life!" The colander didn't cut it. We had to go back to the shed for a peck box. Then another one. I ended up with close to a bushel of cucumbers that day.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a cucumber on the vine is in search of a good pickle recipe. I have a great one. While it is a pickle that is easy enough for a novice canner, it is one that is so full of complex flavor that it is satisfying enough for a veteran canner. Garlicky, briny and crisp; the Gobs of Garlic pickles are a mainstay of our pantry.

One of the keys to good pickles is to make and process the pickles as soon as possible from the moment they are picked. No matter how hot a day is (and that one was nearly 100 degrees) you need to act quickly. I spent a couple hours that afternoon putting up pickles. While it is not a difficult or complicated task it does heat up a kitchen pretty effectively. By the time I had turned off the flame under the canner my tolerance for standing in a sauna-like kitchen had pretty well been exhausted.

Mercifully, while we're making like the industrious ant putting up food for the winter, this is the best time of year for simple, last-minute meals. Bountiful produce is the backbone of meals that practically make themselves. After a hot day of work both inside and out, a light meal before settling down for the evening is just what the doctor ordered. This one is spectacular.

Garden Fresh Pesto Bruschetta topping is a flavorful blend of chopped tomatoes, olives, garlic, basil and parsley. If you have other goodies bursting forth from your garden you can add those in as well: zucchini and summer squash, among other vegetables, would be a welcome addition to the mix. While I prefer to serve this with bread to sop up the accumulated juices at the bottom of the dish, it is equally good tossed with freshly cooked pasta. My favorite accompaniment for it is my quick Grilled Bread with a subtle hint of garlic and Italian herbs cooked right into it.

If your garden isn't going gangbusters just yet, you can still grill up this bread and serve it with a dish of olive oil seasoned with kosher salt, pepper, garlic and chopped fresh basil.

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