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June, 2009

Positively Ageless - Giardiniera (Italian Pickled Vegetables)

By Cheryl Forberg

Fresh fruits and vegetables are an excellent way to kick up the fiber in your daily diet -- but most of us simply aren’t getting enough of them.

Giardiniera (Italian Pickled Vegetables)
The recommended amount of fiber is 25 – 35 grams per day – most Americans are getting less than half of that. Not only is fiber important for digestion and regularity, it also:

  • promotes healthy blood sugar levels
  • fights obesity by promoting satiety or fullness
  • helps decrease the risk for a variety of different cancers
  • promotes healthy cholesterol levels and fights heart disease
And the added bonus to all of this is that where there’s fiber, you’ll usually find lots of vitamins, antioxidants and beneficial plant chemicals too. A few simple ways to increase your veggie intake include:

  • Adding lots of extra vegetables to your favorite soups
  • Keeping a box of Melissa’s Steamed Lentils or cooked garbanzos in the fridge to toss in your salads
  • Have containers of cut-up veggies on hand to munch on – and carry mixed raw veggies with you to work or school for snacks
  • Add lettuce, onions, tomatoes, sprouts to every sandwich; this can easily add 5 grams of fiber
  • While it used to be common to see one vegetable on a typical dinner plate, we’re now learning that a bright array of colorful veggies should actually be filling half of the plate, along with a serving of lean protein and whole grains.
In addition to preparing a few fresh veggies for each meal, I like to keep some prepared veggies on hand in the fridge for those days when time is really limited. Roast peppers or fire-roasted salsa are great addition to most any meal. Another favorite at my house is Giardiniera. This mixture of pickled vegetables can be adapted to include all of your favorite seasonings, such as hot and spicy peppers. Giardiniera can simply be served as a side vegetable, tossed with pasta, topping a pizza or puréed with a little olive oil and garlic for a delicious sandwich spread.

This recipe makes a large batch (2-1/2 quarts) that lasts for months in the fridge. The vegetables in the recipe below are typical, but you can mix it up by adding other favorites such as baby corn, zucchini, or artichoke hearts -- feel free to experiment.

Giardiniera (Italian Pickled Vegetables)
Makes about 2 1/2 quarts or about twenty 1/2 cup servings
This colorful recipe is the perfect addition to any antipasto platter. Feel free to add more hot peppers if you want a spicier result.

Ingredients:
8 cups white wine vinegar, divided
2 teaspoons fresh oregano, chopped
1 teaspoon chile pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard seed
4 whole cloves
3 cloves peeled garlic
2 bay leaves
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 (10 ounce) package Melissa’s Pearl Onions, peeled
10 shiitake mushroom caps, cut in quarters (stems removed and discarded)
4 ounces baby carrots, quartered lengthwise
4 ounces haricots verts, ends trimmed
1 head cauliflower cut in small florets
1 medium red bell pepper, cleaned and cut in 1/2” strips
1 medium yellow bell pepper, cleaned and cut in 1/2" strips

Instructions:
In a large (4 quart) pan, bring 7 cups of vinegar to a boil with spices and seasonings. Add the prepared vegetables and when mixture returns to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 8 minutes. Place a large mixing bowl under a colander and drain the vegetables, reserving the hot seasoned vinegar. Spoon hot vegetables into clean jars. Pour the hot vinegar mixture over vegetables so that there is about 1 1/2 inches space at the top of each jar. If necessary, use the additional 1 cup of cold vinegar to fill them. Spoon some of the olive oil at the top of each jar; seal with covers. Cool and refrigerate for one week before using. Giardiniera will keep for several months in the refrigerator.