May – Spicy Quick Radish Pickles

May – Spicy Quick Radish Pickles

What to do with an abundance of radishes left over from a crudite platter? That was the question that needed addressing this morning. The party was last weekend and those radishes needed a solution, there were simply too many of them to use up before they turned brown. The answer, a quick pickle. They will be wonderful with anything on the BBQ or as a quick snack with sharp cheddar cheese.

I found this recipe on the blog site COOKIE+Kate, it was originally posted in May of 2014. I modified it slightly by the addition of cumin seeds, with which I am slightly obsessed.

She slices the radishes very thinly, it makes the pickling process much faster. I don’t have a mandoline (must be one of the very few things not currently crowding my kitchen) and didn’t want to pull out the big food processor, so mine are not sliced quite so thinly. That’s okay though, I want them to have a definite crunch and don’t intend to use them for a couple of days. These will last several weeks in the fridge. IMG_7546 2


  • 1 large bunch of radishes
  • 3/4 cup of white wine or apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup of water
  • 3 tablespoons of honey or maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (1 teaspoon yields quite spicy pickles)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of whole mustard seeds (optional, I didn’t have any handy)
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds (my addition)
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns (also my addition)


  1. Prepare the radishes. Cut off the tops and slice into rounds (thin ones will pickle much faster). Pack the radishes into a pint canning jar or larger container if you have more radishes…I had about two bunches and used a quart canning jar.
  2. Add the red pepper flakes, optional mustard, cumin and peppercorns to the top of the jar.
  3. For the brine. In a saucepan (non aluminum) combine the vinegar, water, honey or maple syrup, and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Pour the hot liquid over the radishes in the jar and screw on the lid.
  4. Let the mix cool to room temperature, then refrigerate.

If you have sliced them very thinly the pickles will be ready to eat in a few hours. They will keep well for several weeks but will gradually loose their crispness after a week or so (depending on how thinly you sliced them). One bunch will make about a pint jar, depending on how large they are. I had enough for  quart canning jar, a bit worse for wear, that had just been removed from the dishwasher.

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PS There was left over canning liquid since I doubled the recipe. Not wanting to waste anything, I found half of a large red onion languishing in the produce drawer. I sliced it thinly, packed it into a pint canning jar, and added the pickling liquid on top. Quick pickled onions are amazing on burgers or grilled cheese sandwiches, not to mention anything Mexican.

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November in the garden – salad greens, broccoli, peas, carrots, artichokes

November in the garden – salad greens, broccoli, peas, carrots, artichokes

Thank goodness we got some rain overnight. My garden has been getting along with occassional water from the hose but I don’t think veggies like it as much as rain water. Do you notice a difference after a rain? I do, they seem to perk up and go through a growth spurt.

The broccoli rabe is starting to form little heads. I may harvest a bit to add to pasta this weekend. Planting three varieties of broccoli is an experiment, in addition to the broccoli rabe I’ve planted purple sprouting broccoli and regular ones. We’ve had some warm weather during the day so they are getting a good start. In the past the cabbage worms and aphids got most of the harvest. I’m being diligent this year about picking off cabbage worm eggs and watching for aphids.

broccoli rabe

broccoli rabe

The cauliflower is standing tall, but there are no heads yet.

The lettuce is looking amazing! We had our first full salad from the garden last night. It was gorgeous with all those colors, textures and leaf shapes. I added fava leaves and trimmings from the pea plants.

fava beans and lettuce

fava beans and lettuce

I plan to scatter some more arugula seeds this weekend. We love it so, and it gets eaten quickly.



The watermelon radishes I planted seem to have become squirrel food! I’ll replant and cover them with a wire basket to keep the critters away. The radishes were purposely inter-planted with some spicy mixed greens, that usually keeps the furry pests away. Not this time, they selectively dug up all the young radishes.

The snap and snow peas are growing tall though.

nap peas, snow peas, and mesclun

snap peas, snow peas, and mesclun

That’s some spicy mesclun in the front, see the holes where the squirrels dug up the radishes? Grrrr…

carrots and radishes in containers

carrots and radishes in containers

Although I have many gardening failures over the years, the one that frustrates me the most are carrots. They should be easy to grow, right? Well, I have had terrible luck so far. Recently I decided to try another method, containers. I had some deep nursery containers that were sitting around waiting for me to stop being lazy and recycle back to the nursery. I thought I would use them, plant some radishes in the same container. So far, so good. I initially planted pelleted seeds (which are larger and supposed to make it easier to space the carrots), but the germination rate was terrible! So, I purchased several seed varieties and plan to thin the carrots when they are a couple of inches tall.

mini coldframe

mini coldframe – greenhouse

This mini-greenhouse is on the back deck, I’m hoping it will allow me to keep growing lettuces throughout the winter. It will get more sun once the magnolia tree looses the rest of it’s leaves.

artichoke plant

artichoke plant

The artichoke plants are coming back with the cooler wet weather. Last spring we had tons of them. This plant looks as if it could use separating out into at least 3 new ones. They grow like weeds here. Because my neighbor likes the flowers, I let some of them go to seed. Every since they have been self sowing themselves everywhere, even into cracks in the sidewalk.

artichoke plant growing from a crack in the sidewald

artichoke plant growing from a crack in the sidewald


20 essential items for your pantry – Pasta with Butter and Cheese

20 essential items for your pantry – Pasta with Butter and Cheese

It is amazing how many meals you can create if you have the following 20 pantry items on hand. You don’t need a fancy kitchen, pots, or ingredients. Wonderful cooks have been producing four-star “every day” meals with just these staples. If you add good bread, and a few fresh ingredients from the garden (see my post on the 10 plants to grow in pots) you have a feast. Simplify your kitchen and therefore your life.

All of the following 20 will keep well in the pantry or refrigerator. Use them to make quick delicious meals for your family, or guests. I’ll be using all of them in future posts with menu ideas.

  1. Salt – I like grey salt and sea salt for flavoring, having kosher on hand is also nice (keep it close in a jar by your stove)
  2. Onions – brown or white, plus red for salads
  3. Garlic
  4. Fresh ginger
  5. Lemons
  6. Olive oil – extra virgin
  7. Neutral oil such as canola or sunflower or coconut
  8. Butter
  9. Rice wine vinegar
  10. Wine vinegar – red
  11. Dijon mustard
  12. Soy sauce
  13. Coconut milk
  14. Sesame oil
  15. Parmesan cheese (whole piece, not pre-grated, best you can afford)
  16. Dried pasta
  17. Canned tomatoes
  18. Various canned or dried beans
  19. Chocolate bars
  20. Sugar and/or honey

The following classic dish is difficult to beat with only 4 out of the above 20 ingredients.

Picture these two scenarios…you just got home from work, it was a long day with no time to go to the grocery store. The train or bus was late, and traffic was bad. Your family is grouchy and hungry (and you aren’t far behind).

Or, maybe you get a call from an old friend who is in town for just one night. They want to meet your family. There is no time to do anything elaborate and besides, again, you haven’t had time to go grocery shopping. You want to make something delicious and classy but don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen.

If you have a well stocked pantry (plus some herbs and greens in pots on the deck, and bread in the freezer) you are in for a gourmet treat.

Relax; pour yourself (and your guests) a glass of wine.


  • French breakfast radishes, sweet putter, flaked salt, crisp baguette
  • Pasta al Burro con Parmigiano: Pasta with Butter and Cheese
  • Salad de la casa 
  • Chocolate bars, assorted types

For the starter: Go out to those herb and veggie filled pots on your deck or patio (or your garden) and pull some radishes (see “10 herbs and veggies you can grow in pots”). Wash them, cut off the root and trim the tops to an 1 inch. On a plate arrange the radishes with some sweet butter and flaked salt. If you have a baguette wrapped in foil in the freezer, it can be ready in 20 minutes. Heat your oven to 400 degrees, place the frozen foil wrapped baguette on a rack and cook for 15 minutes, remove the foil for another 5 minutes to crisp.


This is a classic Italian pasta dish. While living with my family in Rome as an 8 year-old, I lived on it. At that stage of my life Italian food was not my cup of tea, with the exception of Pasta al Burro con Parmigiano. It was standard fare at every restaurant.


Pasta al Burro con Parmigiano: Pasta with Butter and Parmesan Cheese (serves 6-8)

1 lb. pasta of your choice

1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, plus more for serving

8 tablespoons butter – 1 stick cut into 8 pieces and softened to room temperature (not melted)


Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt (kosher) until it tastes like the sea. Add your pasta and cook according to the package directions, tasting to make sure it is done to your liking. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water and drain the pasta. Do not rinse! Dump your pasta back in the hot pot, add the butter and toss until melted, add a little of the hot cooking water if it looks dry, then the cheese and toss again. If the mixture still looks dry, add a bit more cooking water. The cooking water contains starch which turns butter and cheese into a creamy sauce. Don’t add too much as you don’t want it to be watery. Taste to see if it needs more salt. Turn into a warm serving bowl or individual plates. Grate some cheese on the top.

Serve with extra cheese on the side.

Olive oil can be substituted for the butter. This is the basic version, you could add fresh herbs, a few chili flakes, a handful of frozen peas (defrosted), some toasted breadcrumbs, toasted nuts, etc. Need some meat? What about crumbled crisp bacon, slices of Italian sausage browned in olive oil, or left over rotisserie chicken. Let your imagination go wild! But, this dish is delicious just as it is, with only good butter and cheese.

Fix a salad from your pots, make a simple vinaigrette.

Salad pickings from the garden

For dessert pull out those chocolate bars, break them into pieces, put them on a pretty plate, serve with pride.


Pasta, salad, bread, chocolate…dinner, perfecto!

What’s in your own pantry is considered an essential?

10 Kitchen basics to grow in pots

10 Kitchen basics to grow in pots

If you have a deck or terrace with some sun, you can grow the following 10 herbs and vegetables. Having a pot of these herbs near your kitchen will encourage you to use them regularly. The fresh ones are infinitely better than the dried.

Many of them are actually easier to grow in containers. The first four are Mediterranean plants often found growing wild beside a road or path in the warmer parts of Europe. They will grow without any attention on your part other than a slug of water every now and then. In fact, withholding water concentrates the oils and makes them more flavorful.

The mint is best grown in a container; given a chance it will take over your garden.


  1. Thyme
  2. Rosemary
  3. Sage
  4. Oregano
  5. Mint
  6. Parsley – will need to be periodically replanted, not too often if you keep it sniped
Thyme and mint

Thyme and mint


  1. Arugula
  2. Salad greens
  3. Radishes
  4. Scallions or chives

Yes, you can grow arugula and other salad greens in pots. They will need regular water to taste their best. Without it they will wilt, become bitter and generally unappealing. If you have to be away for a period of time, I have some ideas that will help keep your garden healthy until you return. Look for another post coming soon.

Having lettuce near your kitchen will encourage you to snip the leaves for wonderful salads. You can either pinch off the outer leaves when they are of the size you want, or cut the entire plant back about an inch above the soil line. The plant will come back for a second or even third time, it’s called cut-and-come-again. The salads from these greens are infinitely better than those from even the finest grocery store. Plus, you can grow exactly the type of lettuce you want. Those commercial mesclun mixes always have too many spinach leaves for my taste. Seed catalogs are full of beautiful lettuces and lettuce mixes. Cooks Garden is famous for their mesclun; take a peak at the varieties available in their on-line catalog.

Radishes are easy to grow, too easy! I find that I forget about them unless they are front and center. My first gardening failure was in my grandparent’s garden when I was 9. I was excited when my grandfather gave me some radish seeds to plant. However, I immediately forgot about them until they were overgrown, woody, and way too hot to eat. Believe me I’ve had lots of failures since! So, put them in a container where you can watch them every time you pass by and pull them up when ready. In France radishes are a favorite starter with a crisp baguette, unsalted butter, and flaked sea salt on the side. I particularly like the French breakfast variety.

Scallions or chives will grow well in a pot. Having them close to the kitchen will encourage you to snip a bit to use with eggs, or salads, or as a fancy garnish. You can grow chives from a transplant, or from seeds. Your plant may die back in the winter but will come back in the spring. The flowers, pulled apart, are beautiful added to a salad. Scallions grow from seed, or even easier, a bunch from the grocery store. Put a bunch, with the rubber band still around them, into a glass with about an inch of water. Change the water every day or two. Once you see the roots growing and new greens on the top, you can plant them into soil. Simply snip off the green portion as needed or pull one up.

Parsley and basil

Parsley and basil

If you have herbs planted further away from the kitchen, cut a few sprigs while you are out in the garden.  Put them close by in a glass of water (change it every day). If you are sure you won’t forget them (I would), you can cover the glass or jar with a plastic bag and put it in the refrigerator. I like to see them and they add a really nice herby scent to the kitchen, much better than those fancy infusers. I often have glasses of parsley, basil (in season), oregano, and rosemary on my kitchen table; ready to use when I feel creative.

October gardening chores

Garden Journal – end of September and October 2014 

Fall is my favorite season. I love the shift to stronger flavored heartier foods, braises, and roasted vegetables. The bright colors of autumn, the crisp days, and colder nights that call for thick quilts and duvets make me happy. This year I will love the rain, every drop of it. In Northern California we have Indian summer and the first week of October often has the warmest weather of the year. This year was no exception with temperatures into the high 80’s. Nevertheless, I feel and smell fall in the air.

It is time to plant my fall garden, but some of my summer veggies are still hanging in there and taking up garden space.

This past week I pulled out the cucumbers, pole beans and half the tomato plants to make way for my cauliflower, broccoli, chard and beet transplants (seeded on August 7). The raised bed intended for peas is still producing tomatoes; they have been so delicious this year that I can’t bear to tear out the plants. I’ll need to figure out what to do with the remaining green ones but maybe some of the Sungold cherries will ripen in time. I think I can wait another week or two and besides, my green bins for the city street side composting are full. The cucumbers and summer squash had powdery mildew and couldn’t go into my own household compost bins. The tomatoes went into the green bin as well. Composting tomatoes is not recommended. Both the plants and fruit are prone to carry disease, which can get into your soil and infect next year’s plants. (This is also why it is not recommended to plant tomatoes in the same place consecutive years.) Lastly the seeds are quite resistant to even a hot compost bin and can remain viable for years. I’ve spent a lot of time picking tomato seedlings out of the garden.

General garden chores in October:

  • Pull out any diseased or finished plants and vegetables
  • Refresh garden beds with aged compost and manure
  • Mulch paths in the garden in preparation for winter wet weather and mud
  • Seed winter and spring vegetables:
    • Peas, all kinds including those intended for ornamental flowers
    • Carrots
    • Radishes
    • Lettuce
    • Arugula
    • Cilantro
  • Put out transplants of:
    • Cauliflower
    • Broccoli
    • Chard
    •  Kale
    •  Beets
    •  Parsley