Dining to Cook: Fermented Vegetables

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San Francisco has no shortage of talented chefs, which, these days, means there is no shortage of beautiful cookbooks to accompany that talent. One of my favorite restaurants, Bar Tartine, recently released a cookbook – or rather a “techniques & recipes” book. This book completely embodies what Bar Tartine is all about – an extensive focus on technique, and showcasing how that technique brings depth and complex layers to food.

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Upon the first few page turns, I came across this powerful photo – an amazing arsenal of various homemade spices like kale spice, beet powder, and burnt scallion. Seeing this was much like a visit to the restaurant, tastes of completely new flavors such as fermented garlic, pickled ramp aïoli, cultured kefir butter, and sprouted lentils. It’s seriously awe-inspiring to see what can be created, and that this book was going to guide me in building my own pantry was an awesome feeling.

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I spent that first night with the book reading, admiring, and getting excited. I decided on my first project: brined vegetables, also known as fermented vegetables. The next day, while at the CUESA Saturday Market, I really wanted to take advantage of the last of the season winter produce, so I picked up some brussels sprouts, purple cauliflower, kohlrabi, beets, and ginger.

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For the sake of clarity, pickling is the process of preserving food by anaerobic fermentation in brine or vinegar. The brine (the salt water solution) removes sugar and causes lactic acid to form, ie, “pickling” the vegetables. Brining is part of the pickling process. 

I loved the idea of starting from total scratch – just salt and water. So, after preparing the brine based on the suggested ratio of salt to water, I prepped and cut my vegetables and topped them off with the brine. Super easy.

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After just a few days, the vegetables already started to fizzle – fermentation happening! Really looking forward to seeing how my winter vegetables change (and taste!) after they hibernate some more.
To be continued….