by Caroline

We joke around here sometimes about how I don’t cook dinner, that I only cook the accessory foods (ie, granola, desserts), and thanks to my dinner-cooking husband there’s more than a kernel of truth in that. I like baking, and also it appeals to my sense of economy (there may be a greater discrepancy between cost of ingredients and cost of final product in baked goods than any other food you can buy at a market).

But this spring, there hasn’t been time for much baking because I’ve been going a little crazy with the vegetables. I signed up for a CSA to pick up at my son’s school (because, vegetables + kid in one stop? I couldn’t resist!), without dropping either our other weekly produce pick-up (which tends to supply more fruit), the bi-weekly mystery box, or even my farmer’s market habit. It’s just hard to resist all this great spring produce, and we’re going to be out of town most of June, so I’m stocking up while I can. And then, trying to find new ways to use all the bounty.

Inspiration came, as it often does, from the farmer’s market, but from a different source than usual: not a produce vendor, but the pickle people! The Pick-a-Peck stand is a regular fixture at our farmer’s market, and the pickles are great: spicy, crispy, delicious. One night before dinner, a friend and I ate an entire jar of the pickled green beans. But I started (sorry, pickle people) to think about how much I was spending on vegetables, vinegar, and spices and decided to cook up some of my own. So far, the pickled cauliflower is my new favorite — it’s fabulously crunchy with great flavor — but the pickled carrots are delicious, too, and the beets are a mainstay for me, summer and winter. I don’t recall any longer where I found the beet recipe, which exists on a scribbled piece of steno paper in my recipe binder; if you recognize it, please let me know so I can give credit:

2 lbs beets
2 c white vinegar
1 c granulated sugar
2 T kosher salt
1 t allspice berries
1/4 t whole cloves
1/2 cinnamon stick

Simmer the beets in boiling water until tender, 30-60 minutes, depending on their size. Let cool and then peel and slice.

Bring remaining ingredients to a boil, add the sliced beets and cook for one minute. Cool and refrigerate.

These all keep for about two weeks in the fridge, though they never last that long in my house.