Italian Pickled Peppers and Creamy Mayo-Free Coleslaw

I bought a pint of peppers at the farmers market that looked perfect for pickling (and no, I can’t stop thinking about Peter picking a peck of pickled peppers), so I made a simple quick pickle brine that included some of my potted oregano, figuring they’d be awesome on pizza. Plus, I’m a plant killer and the oregano is pretty much dead so I figured I might as well use what I can. (It’s a shame; it was a particularly potent variety and the plant smelled strongly of pizza – I was drooling when I bought it. Curse my black thumb.) Though I made it specifically for putting on pizza, I’ve been eating it by itself as a garnish with every meal I’ve had, even stir frys. Unless Mark is ready to harvest a bunch of the peppers he’s growing (he does NOT have a black thumb), I’ll have to buy another pint or two of peppers at the market this weekend. The brine gets spicy and delicious as well.

Italian Pickled Peppers

1 pint hot peppers, like peperoncini or wax
1 large shallot
2 or 3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup white wine or apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
several sprigs fresh oregano
a few sprigs of fresh dill (optional)

Combine the vinegar, water, sugar, and salt and heat until just boiling (in a small pot or in the microwave), whisking to ensure the sugar is completely dissolved. Slice the peppers (seeded if you like) and shallot thinly. Smash the garlic cloves lightly with the side of a knife. Toss the peppers and shallots together to mix them up and put them into a pint canning jar with the herbs and garlic cloves. Pour the liquid mixture into the jar.

This had a good flavor a mere half hour later, but is really best after refrigerating for 24 hours.

A tasty garnish for just about any dish!

I had extra brine, so I added some olive oil, fresh herbs, and lemon juice and made a salad dressing out of it.

Here is a flatbread pizza sporting some of the peppers (and some basil that I haven’t yet managed to kill, mostly because Mark won’t let me near it):

Mark is a big mayo-hater, and although I don’t hate mayonnaise, I do consider it pretty unhealthy, so I usually do vinaigrette versions of salads that are usually dressed in mayo, and honestly, I think they taste much better that way. I don’t usually prefer dressings to be creamy, but this coleslaw recipe uses a little bit of yogurt for a hint of creaminess.

Creamy Mayo-Free Coleslaw

1 small head cabbage (green or savoy)
1/2 small onion
2 green onions, sliced thinly
3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp plain vegan yogurt
2 Tbsp canola or other flavorless oil
1 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp celery seeds

Grate the cabbage and the onion – I use a mandolin for this – and put in a large bowl with the green onions. Whisk together the vinegar, yogurt, oil, sugar, mustard, salt, and celery seeds. Pour the mixture over the cabbage and onions and mix thoroughly; I advise using your hands. Cover and refrigerate at least an hour to allow the flavors to blend.

Last night’s dinner, featuring the coleslaw (and you can see the pickled peppers, as well as some quick pickled carrots):

Mark spends about 10 minutes artfully arranging the food on his plate every night. He watches too much Gordon Ramsay.

Time for book and animal talk. Once again, I experienced a random segue from a fiction to a non-fiction book. Last weekend I read We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. It’s about a girl who was raised with a chimpanzee as a sister until both she and the chimp were 5, and how this has impacted her life and that of her family. Confronted by some crows that the narrator is convinced are calling them bad names, one of the characters (who is vegan when he’s not “on the road” working for the Animal Liberation Front) responds, “Crows are very smart. If they say we’re idiots, we’re idiots.”

Well, I had already cued up Gifts of the Crow as my very next read, so I was about to find out just how smart crows are, if not whether or not they think we are idiots. Gifts of the Crow was fascinating; I read the entire thing while at Mark’s chess tournament. It’s very heavy on brain chemistry, so if you’re not interested in that sort of thing, it might not be for you, but I learned that crows:

  • Can talk.
  • If perched on a ledge from which dangles food on a long string, know to pull up on the string, making loops and stepping on them with their feet, until the food is hoisted all the way up.
  • Not only manufacture tools (the classic example is bending wire to make a hook), but will use items they previously proved unhelpful in other endeavors to assist making their tools – they are very innovative and can reassess the usefulness of tools in different situations.
  • Will place leaves over bread tossed from humans to geese, so the geese can’t find the bread and leave in frustrated confusion, at which times the crows feast.
  • Will chase squirrels into traffic during rush hour, then wait until traffic dies down to eat the dead squirrels.
  • Will pull the tails of dogs (tail pulling seems to be a favorite crow activity, by the way) to trick them out of their dog food, either by dropping food they have in their mouth, or by ganging up so that one crow distracts the dog while the other steals its food.
  • Are big “cachers” – they hide food and trinkets they don’t need right away – and if they notice a fellow crow watching them hiding their cache, they will fake the other crow out by stuffing the item into its chest feathers or in its beak and pretend to cache it in one location, but secretly hide it elsewhere later. Although they are also so smart that they know that other crows are trying to fake them out, so this is a vicious cycle. Moreover, if a crow sees another crow getting near its cache, they will make a distraction and retrieve the cache before the other bird can get to it…but only if the first crow previously saw the second crow see the first crow hiding it. Calling someone a “bird brain” is supposed to be an insult, but crows come close to OVER thinking things!
  • Can count, and understand that even if they can’t see something, it’s still there. Eight researchers in a blind tried to trick crows into thinking a field was safe to land in and not a single crow would leave their high perches until all eight people had left the blind and the field – even when the researchers left the blind in groups of random numbers to try to fake them out.
  • Learn from the mistakes of other crows. If a crow sees one of their brethren die or become injured, through misadventure or through human intervention, none of the other crows in the area will make the same mistake. Ever.
  • Remember human faces – for years. And they’ll tell all their friends if you are a good or a bad person. If you do something bad to a crow or a crow sees you do something bad to some other crow, that crow will harass you – forever – and so will others he knows. Crows who never even saw the original infraction will harangue you (proving crows have some sort of language they use to communicate with each other) even when the crow you originally slighted isn’t around.
  • Know what car you drive. Maybe you should just read the book for an explanation of that one, but yeah. They don’t just know your face, they know your car. And they’ll use your car as a vehicle to show their displeasure with you.
  • Remember and reward kindnesses in humans as well as meanness. Crows have been known to bring gifts – often some shiny, human trinket they’ve stolen – to people who have fed them or saved their life.

Basically, crows (and all birds in the corvid family, which also includes ravens, rooks, jays, magpies, and others) are ridiculously smart, rivaling apes and, in my opinion, some humans. In fact, I kind of think the only reason they haven’t taken over the planet is because they’re lazy and are just waiting for us to come up with all the technology we can. Crows don’t want to be bothered by discovering cold fusion for themselves. Once we’ve created everything crows think they need to rule the earth, I think that’s the end of us. To that end, I designed this t-shirt so when our new crow overlords arrive they know that I’m a sympathizer.

There were crows cawing nearby when I took that picture, by the way, although none stopped by. I’m sure they can read English, however, so they’re probably already putting word out that I can be counted on during the great crow uprising.

They are remarkable creatures and I hope to be involved in crow rehab in the future. First, though, the raptors…coming soon.

5 Comments »

  1. Mr. W Said,

    July 13, 2013 @ 1:05 am

    Hi Renae,

    As always an enjoyable and enlightening post!

    I too have marveled at the intelligence of crows, and I really enjoyed this Ted Talk by Joshua Klein:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bXQAgzfwuNQ
    (My favorite part is the crow vending machine… and no it does not dispense crows).

    Thanks again for taking the time to post a little bit of yourself for us to enjoy!

    Take care,
    Mr. W

  2. Josiane Said,

    July 13, 2013 @ 10:37 pm

    Once again, those recipes are going straight to my must-try list! It’ll be several more weeks before I can get my hands on local organic peppers at the farmers market (when I see all that you and other bloggers I read have been able to find at the market for the past several weeks already, I feel like I’m really far to the north… even though I’m in the south of the province), but I’ll definitely remember that I have to pickle some!

    Both those books sound absolutely fascinating. The things you’ve learned from the one about crows are quite impressive, and make a good case for making sure they know we are on their side! ;)

  3. Nikki Said,

    July 15, 2013 @ 7:39 am

    I have also been considering doing some pickling this summer, cucumbers and red onions however, not peppers and making some homemade dressing. I have found interesting recipes for both. I did know that crows can talk, as can Blue Jays. LOVE the shirt! :)

  4. Lisa Goldstein Kieda Said,

    July 18, 2013 @ 7:35 am

    I finished reading “We are all completely beside ourselves” last weekend as well. Excellent book, agreed! xoxo

  5. Pierre H. Herrera Said,

    July 26, 2013 @ 9:58 am

    Once you’ve packed the jars, make the pickling liquid. In a stainless-steel-lined saucepan, heat ½ cup each water and wine vinegar or cider vinegar and 1 teaspoon salt for each pint jar. If you’re planning to can your pickled peppers, the vinegar should be diluted to no less than 5.0 percent acid. If you’re going to keep your peppers in the refrigerator, you might instead use rice vinegar, which is usually diluted to between 4.0 and 4.3 percent acid.

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