East Coast New Pickles

My son was bewildered by the cucumber “pickles” he was served all through his freshman year at his small college on Long Island, New York. “They aren’t sour at all,” he complained last summer. “There’s no taste of fermentation, no vinegar. I think they’re just cucumbers in salt water!”

I was puzzled, too. New Yorkers I know love to brag about their city’s traditional fermented pickles. How could a Long Island college serve unfermented cucumbers in salt water and call them pickles?

I forgot about this discussion until a few weeks later, when I got an email message from a woman named Sheila. Sheila told me about a small restaurant chain in Rhode Island, named Gregg’s, that for twenty years has served something “that’s not quite a pickle”—a cucumber that’s salty and dilly but not noticeably tart. Sheila’s husband wanted her to make some of these near-pickles, so in The Providence Journal she found a recipe, submitted by a reader, for “Taste Like Gregg’s Pickles.”

The recipe starts out like one for a small batch of traditionally brined pickles: You combine cucumbers, salt, spices, garlic, and water in a two-quart jar. But then you leave the jar out at room temperature for only an hour before refrigerating it for a week. At the end of the week the cucumbers aren’t fermented, but they’re ready to eat.

Ready to eat?  Could they be pickled at all, after just a week in the fridge?

Gregg’s wouldn’t talk about its recipe, so I consulted Mike, the sales guy at Pickle Guys, a business started by former employees of the famous Guss’ Pickles when, in 2002, Guss’ left its old site on Essex Street, on the once mostly Jewish Lower East Side of Manhattan. Pickle Guys—which makes truly kosher pickles, under the supervision of a rabbi—sells a product like Gregg’s, Mike said, as “new pickles.” Mike explained that new pickles “are pretty much the least pickled, more like a salty cucumber, pickled anywhere from one to ten days. After that they will become a half-sour pickle.” Pickle Guys sells a lot of new pickles, some of them heavily seasoned with chile.

I’d already started my own batch of new pickles, adapted from the “Taste Like Gregg’s” recipe. Here is my version of—

East Coast “New Pickles”

 2 quarts 3- to 5-inch pickling cucumbers, blossom ends trimmed
8 garlic cloves
1½ tablespoon mixed pickling spices
¼ teaspoon hot pepper flakes
2 tablespoons pickling salt
4 cups water

Pack a two-quart jar tightly with the cucumbers, interspersing among them the garlic, spices, and pepper flakes. Stir the salt into the water until the water clears. Cover the cucumbers with the brine. Tightly cap the jar, let it sit at room temperature for an hour, and then store it in the refrigerator for at least a day and preferably a week.

After their first few days in the refrigerator, my son and I started tasting the new pickles. I found I actually liked these garlicky, salty, dilly cukes, despite their lack of acidity. My son liked them, too, much more than the ones he’d been served at college. They were a refreshing change from either fermented or vinegar dills. Over time they got stronger in flavor, but even after two months in the refrigerator the cucumbers showed no signs of fermentation—no graying of the skins, no bubbling or clouding of the brine. They neither soured nor spoiled before we ate them all.

While gardeners throughout the rest of the country drown in cucumbers, I wait for the first of mine to grow past cornichon stage. Never before this weirdly cool summer have I felt such a hunger for cucumbers. In a week or so, when I start bringing in cukes by the armload, I think I’ll make some new pickles. I doubt they’ll get as old as a week before we devour them all.

 

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Triple Crown Blackberry Jam

“Rip out those plants, Mom!” my daughter told me. “They’ll totally take over!”

She meant the alien-looking blackberry canes towering over one of my Marionberry rows. The monstrous canes don’t sprawl over the ground like the Marions but stand erect, as tall as fifteen feet. Each cane is as thick as a sapling, and thornless. The leaves aren’t blotched with rust like those of the Marions but solid green, the picture of health.

The fruit is different, too. Whereas Marionberries are long, slender, and soft, these other blackberries are big, round, firm, and glossy. They lack the sour, bitter, winy notes of Marionberry; their taste is frank Himalaya, with a little less acid. They ripen with the wild Himalaya, too, starting at the end of the Marions’ season.

It’s the resemblance to the Himalaya that scares my daughter. We love this most common wild blackberry, but it’s so invasive that we rip out every start except along the irrigation ditch and at the far edges of the wheat field. The new blackberry plants in the row with the Marions aren’t spreading, though, at least not yet. They stay in two tidy clumps, lightly attached to wires just to be sure the plants won’t topple over in the wind (they’re technically considered “semi-erect”).

These plants are the Triple Crown blackberry, a variety jointly developed by USDA breeders in Oregon and Maryland. Released for sale in 1996, the variety is starting to become popular both in and beyond the Pacific Northwest and the mid-Atlantic states. Triple Crown is named for its three “crowning attributes”: flavor, productivity, and vigor. But the variety has two other wonderful attributes, and they’re the ones that will keep me from ripping out the plants: disease-resistance and thornlessness. With western Oregon’s long, cool wet season, disease-resistance is all-important. And I never miss the pain of tiny blackberry thorns in my fingers.

Still, my daughter has a complaint unmentioned in the berry trial reports: “The seeds are too big. They stick in my teeth.” So I decide to make the Triple Crowns into one of her favorite jams, seedless blackberry.

Triple Crown Blackberry Jam
Makes about 3 pints

Although you could use a different blackberry variety in this recipe, I’ve written it especially for Triple Crowns. These berries are relatively low in acid, so I use a little more lemon juice than usual. And because the berries are so large and firm, I cook them before putting them through the food mill.

3 pounds Triple Crown blackberries
3 2/3 cups sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice

In a broad, heavy-bottomed, nonreactive pot, simmer the berries, covered, until they are tender and most of their juice is rendered, about 10 minutes. Then put the berries through the fine screen of a food mill.

In the pot, combine the berry purée with the sugar and lemon juice. Heat the mixture over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Turn the heat to medium-high, and boil the jam until a drop mounds in a chilled bowl. (The spoon test will work with this jam, too; when the jam is ready, two drops will run together off the side of a spoon.)

Remove the pot from the heat. Ladle the jam into sterilized jars, and process them in a boiling-water bath for 5 minutes.

Once my daughter has tasted this luscious, dark jam, I hope, she’ll never again complain about my monster blackberry plants. In the next year or two, I may be ripping out Marions to make room for more Triple Crowns.

Peppermint for Tea

One of my favorite things about summer is the smell of peppermint—from the fields, after a cutting; from the tubs full of fresh-chopped mint, as they’re trucked by our place on the way to the distillery; and even from the pummy (the word comes from pomace), when it’s steaming in a heap in my garden a year after harvest.

The peppermint grown commercially in the Willamette Valley nearly all gets distilled into oil, for toothpaste, chewing gum, and candy. After the mint is cut and chopped in the field, it’s blown into enormous enclosed tubs that each become part of a still. One hose is attached at the base of the tub to inject steam, and another is attached to the top of the tub to collect the oily steam and feed it into a condenser. In a separator can, the oil rises to the top of the water. The steamed mint “hay” then gets dumped in piles, where it fragrantly rots into what must be one of the world’s best combined soil conditioner–fertilizers (provided the mint hasn’t been sprayed with a long-lasting herbicide such as Stinger).

If you want peppermint for tea or any other purpose, your local mint farmer might not be prepared to accommodate you. My children, when they were little, addressed this problem by ripping a peppermint stolon from a neighbor’s field and burying it in our front garden. This is actually the way mint is normally propagated; seedlings are too variable. In the front garden the mint has spread a little over the years, but not much, because I give this thirsty herb scant summer water. In this way I’ve managed to ensure enough peppermint for an occasional cup of tea without the whole garden’s turning into a peppermint patch.

A good time to dry peppermint is just before it flowers, especially if this happens to be when you’re feeling guilty for running a half-empty electric food dryer. Last week my North Star cherries were nearly dry when I thought to add a few trays of peppermint to the dehydrator.

Some people prefer to dry their herbs in bunches hung from the ceiling. My daughter, actually, has a bunch of lavender hanging from the kitchen light fixture right now. For most herbs, this technique tends to work well only in places like California or the Southwest. Here in western Oregon, the weather is seldom hot and dry enough to dry herbs well—that is, so they keep their color and flavor. When I try to dry herbs in bunches, I usually end up throwing them out because they have turned musty.

Drying herbs in the dehydrator is less trouble, anyway. For the peppermint, I shake or brush off any spiders, and then I tear off and discard the old, tough leaves at the base of the stalks. I run each stalk between my thumb and forefinger to remove the rest of the leaves, which I spread thickly on the dryer trays. I set these trays over any drying fruit, which needs a bit more heat. Then I enjoy the fragrance of peppermint for the next hour and a half, by which time the leaves are thoroughly dry.

I crush the leaves as much as needed to fit them into a tea can, and I stow the can away in the cupboard. Stored this way, peppermint keeps its flavor and aroma for years, if we don’t use it all in the coming winter, as we probably will. I look forward to those chilly, dark nights when I’ll again breathe in the powerful scent of peppermint, in the steam from a hot mug.

Update 2022: As the climate has changed, I now often dry herbs by hanging them in bunches from the ceiling.

Sauerkraut with Whey

For years people have been asking me to try fermenting sauerkraut with whey. I procrastinated for a long time, partially because I don’t keep dairy animals and so seldom have whey on hand, and partially because I saw no good reason to introduce an animal product to my vegetable crock (although I do like fishy kimchi).

But lately my daughter has been making a lot of cheese, and we’ve had a lot of whey to find uses for. So I consulted Klaus Kaufmann and Annelies Schöneck’s little book Making Sauerkraut and Pickled Vegetables at Home. The authors explain that “because it contains lactose and several vitamins and minerals, whey is an excellent aid to start the fermentation process.”

I was still in the dark. Whey comes from fermented milk; the lactose that was in the fresh milk has already been converted to lactic acid. The microbes that naturally ferment cabbage also produce lactic acid. In what way could adding lactic acid before fermentation help?

In spite of my doubts, I went ahead and made a small batch of sauerkraut with whey, using approximately one-fifth the quantities in Kaufmann and Schöneck’s recipe for–

Low-Salt Sauerkraut

2½ pounds slivered cabbage
1 teaspoon pickling salt
1/3 cup chopped onion
½ teaspoon caraway seeds
2 juniper berries
1 cup whey
Brine: 1 teaspoon pickling salt dissolved in 2 cups water

Toss together all the ingredients except the whey. The vegetables will take longer to wilt than they would with more salt, so wait about 15 minutes. Then pack the vegetables firmly into a 2-quart jar. Pour the whey over (the amount here is proportionally a bit more than Kaufmann and Schöneck call for; I needed this much to cover the vegetables).

Push a freezer-weigh quart plastic bag into the top of the jar, pour in the brine, and seal the bag.

If liquid doesn’t cover the sauerkraut by the next day, add a little of the brine from the bag.

Let the cabbage ferment for two weeks, say Kaufmann and Schöneck, or eat the cabbage as soon as it’s as tart as you like. It will keep for a long time in the refrigerator.

The fermentation proceeded normally, with no slime or mold or other nasty developments. I decided to serve the kraut early, after just a week, because I sometimes prefer it when it’s still crisp. I liked the seasonings; the caraway came through strong. I also liked that the kraut was less salty than usual. And if I hadn’t added the whey myself I wouldn’t have noticed it.

So, what was the purpose of adding whey? The same, I suspect, as adding salt and sometimes a little vinegar at the beginning of lactic-acid fermentation: These ingredients help keep bad microbes, like mold, from growing while fermentation gets under way, and they also slow the fermentation, thus allowing full flavors to develop. The whey took the place of additional salt.

The Polish Fermentation Pot

I’ve recently finished my first batch of sauerkraut in my handsome, chocolate-brown crock from Boleslawiec, Poland. Like the Harsch Gärtopf crock, the Polish crock has fitted weights and a trough in which the lid rests. If you keep water in the trough through the fermentation, no yeast or mold gets inside, so you don’t have to skim scum from the surface of the kraut.

The stoneware weights

Carbon dioxide produced during fermentation escapes through the water in the trough. You know this is happening by the occasional  burp that the crock emits (it’s a puzzling sound to hear in the middle of the night at first, but you get used to it). You can tell how active the fermentation is by the frequency of the burps.

I was attracted to this crock partially because of the rotund shape of the 10-liter size (the 20-liter crock is straight-sided). But the roundness is a little impractical if you frequently fill the crock only about halfway. In this case the weights rest in the broadest part of the crock, where they don’t come close to covering the surface. I guess the Poles can’t imagine anyone making less than 15 pounds of kraut at a time.

Even if you fill the crock completely, you’ll want to cover your kraut with two or three uncut outer cabbage leaves before adding the weights. This will keep little bits of cabbage from floating.

UPDATE 2022: The Polish pickling crocks are no longer available, but you can buy a similar, 3- or 7-liter crock–with glass weights!–from Stone Creek Trading.

The beloved Harsch pot is also unavailable now, but you can buy the similar Nik Schmitt pot from Harvest Essentials.

Be careful about buying any pickling crock priced under one hundred dollars. It is probably either very small or made in China.

The Pickle Throwdown

I had the honor yesterday of serving among the judges at the first annual Kenny and Zuke’s Pickle Throwdown, at Kenny and Zuke’s deli in Northwest Portland. Eleven restaurants presented a total of thirty pickles, categorized as classic, sweet, non-cucumber, and “Portland weird.” Five hundred people came to taste them.

My own clear favorite among the classics was Biwa’s, a brined cucumber with just the right levels of salt and tang and loads of garlic. The sweet category included some good cucumber bread-and-butters, but I was most impressed by Toro Bravo’s zucchini b&bs—unusual in that they were neither too sweet nor too spicy, so that you could actually taste the delicate flavor of the zucchini. (Oddly, Biwa is a Japanese restaurant and Toro Bravo is Spanish.) It was hard to choose a single favorite in the non-cucumber category, which included cherries, strawberries, bourbon-pickled apples, cauliflower, rhubarb, asparagus, jalapeños, kimchee, and giardiniera. Sunshine Tavern’s pickled eggs were interesting in their mild acidity and their semi-cooked yolks, but I most liked Olympic Provision’s pickled roasted red peppers. The weird category included Grüner’s delicious but ordinary pickled mushrooms and Kenny and Zuke’s just-too-weird Koolickles, cucumber pickles soaked in cherry-flavored Kool-Aid, according to a Mississippi Delta tradition. Most imaginative were Spints Alehouse’s pickled duck tongues with longan halves (don’t you wonder where somebody found five hundred duck tongues—and how those ducks are feeling now?). The judges’ favorite, though, was cuttlefish caponata, an elaborate treat prepared by Garden State Cart—yes, a food cart, whose proprietor also makes his own pancetta and barbecue sauce and hand-cuts his own shoestring potatoes.

Here are a few photos of the Throwdown pickles:


Rhubarb Sauce with Strawberries

After Harriet scorned my pickled rhubarb (which I’ll write about later), I asked what she preferred to do with rhubarb. I liked her answer: She macerates cut rhubarb in sugar overnight, she said, and cooks the mixture briefly in the morning. When the rhubarb starts to soften, she stirs in some strawberries and let’s them just heat through, so they color the sauce but keep their shape. That’s it–she then serves forth her strawberry-studded pink rhubarb sauce.

So I tried Harriet’s recipe for breakfast the next day. Here’s my interpretation:

Harriet’s Strawberry-Rhubarb Sauce

1 pound rhubarb, cut crosswise about ¾ inch thick
1/3 cup sugar
1 pound strawberries, hulled

Mix the rhubarb and sugar in a bowl, cover the bowl, and let it stand at room temperature overnight.

In the morning, the sugar will have turned to syrup. Turn the rhubarb and syrup out into a saucepan, and simmer the rhubarb, uncovered, stirring it occasionally and gently, until it becomes tender (at which point it will begin falling apart), about 6 minutes.

While the rhubarb cooks, halve or quarter any of the strawberries that are large or not fully ripe. Leave small, ripe strawberries whole.

Add the strawberries to the pan of rhubarb. Simmer the mixture about 4 minutes, until the strawberries are just tender.

Serve the sauce immediately, or let it cool. If you must gild the lily, flavor the sauce with rosewater or perhaps some maraschino. For a formal dessert, the sauce goes well with ice cream, custard, or cake.

UPDATE 2022: What were those rhubarb pickles that Harriet scorned? Apparently I never wrote up a recipe at all. Maybe I will, some day.

Maraschino Cherries: The Almost-Real Thing

Look what I found in the liquor store in Albany, Oregon, among the flavored vodkas and cheap tequilas! I wasn’t looking for maraschino (pronounced maraSKEEno), but finding it made my day. It’s cherry season in the Willamette Valley, a region once well-dotted with cherry orchards. Almost all have long since been cut down, but the birds continually replant the feral descendants of the Bings, Lamberts, and Royal Annes that once made our nurserymen and farmers so proud. The fruit of the cherry trees that manage to grow up, mostly along the edges of farmed fields, can be large or small, red or yellow or black, and sweet or sour or bitter. My favorite tree, which grew from a seedling beside our shed, annually produces hundreds of pounds of small, black, slightly bitter fruits.

Because these cherries are too small to pit, I’ve had to find uncommon ways to preserve them. This was the same quandary faced hundreds of years ago by the people of Dalmatia, a region of modern Croatia along the Adriatic Sea where thrived the marasca cherry, a small, dark, slightly bitter variant of the sour morello. Sixteenth-century Dominican monks in Zadar (or Zara, as the name is still spelled on the Luxardo label) crushed the cherries along with their pits and some of their leaves and probably added some honey before distilling the fermented mash. The product, aged in white ash and then sweetened with cane sugar, became known as rosolj, “sun dew.” In the eighteenth century, rosolj was renamed maraschino and relished by the wealthy all over Europe.

Girolamo Luxardo began making maraschino in 1821. Luxardo’s double-distilled clear liqueur is sweet, viscous, and mildly bitter, with a complex flavor and aroma that you probably wouldn’t recognize as cherry or almond. By the time of the U.S. Civil War, Luxardo maraschino was available in the United States, where bartenders put it in cocktails. By the late 1800s, marasca cherries soaked in maraschino had also become popular. They were the ultimate cocktail garnish.

Prohibition put an end to the importation of both maraschino and maraschino cherries. So in the 1920s Ernest Wiegand, a professor at Oregon Agricultural College, devised a cheap, nonalcoholic substitute for maraschino cherries, using Oregon’s big, fleshy, pale Royal Annes. He first soaked them in a salt-and-alum brine, and then he packed them in sugar syrup doctored with food coloring, acid, and almond extract. His shiny crimson knockoffs soon took the place of maraschino cherries in cocktails, in “fruit cocktails” (which had gradually lost their liquor but continued to be served in cocktail glasses), and atop sundaes.

At the request of readers, I included the home version of Wiegand’s recipe in The Joy of Jams, Jellies, and Other Sweet Preserves. But I personally preferred to soak my cherries in brandy. I’d never tasted marascas, but they sounded quite similar to my own favorite cherries. I figured that my brandied cherries, with sugar and a little almond extract added, must be pretty close in taste to true maraschino cherries. A couple of years ago I tried my brandied cherries on a young woman from northern Italy. They did taste something like maraschinos, she said. But they weren’t the same.

This year I have what I need to make almost-true maraschino cherries—I have maraschino. So here’s my new recipe: Fill a jar with stemmed sour cherries (preferably small dark ones with a touch of bitterness). Cover the cherries with maraschino. For a pint jar, you’ll need about a cup of liqueur. Cover the jar, and put it in a cupboard. Wait a few weeks or months. Then eat your cherries and drink your now dark and frankly cherry-flavored liqueur, over ice, in a cocktail or fruit cocktail, or however else you like.

I’ll let you know come fall how I like my almost-maraschino cherries. In the meantime, let’s hope that one of our new little distilleries considers producing an Oregon version of maraschino liqueur.

UPDATE 2022: The almost-maraschino cherries were heavenly. My currant black cherry tree, grown from a scion of the seedling tree on our farm, produced a sizeable crop here in town last year. Although I greedily ate every one of those cherries out of hand, this year I hope to make almost-maraschino cherries once again.

Linden Flower Tea

The linden trees are blooming, and the bees and I are grateful as ever for their profusion of fragrant flowers.

My three lindens appear to be littleleaf, Tilia cordata, a species native to northern Europe. I can’t be sure, because when I bought the bare-root trees seventeen years ago they were mislabeled as honey locusts (which look completely different, although they likewise please the bees). Also known as lime trees, honey trees, and basswood, lindens come in some thirty species—from Europe, Asia, and eastern North America—and dozens of cultivars. The rangy, big-leaved American linden has fibrous inner bark (or bast, hence “basswood”), which made excellent cordage for native tribes, who also sometimes ate the mucilaginous young leaves and buds. European linden or “common lime,” T. x europaea, is believed to be a natural hybrid of T. cordata and the Eurasian bigleaf linden, T. platyphyllos. All three of these species are planted and often pollarded (cut to trunks or limb stubs) or coppiced (cut to stumps) in European cities and villages. Woodworkers love the lindens—whose English name comes from an old word meaning “flexible” or “resilient”—for their soft, evenly grained wood that doesn’t split or warp. Other people, like me, love lindens for their blossoms, perfuming the summer air with their honey-like scent and, later, opening once again in a cup of hot water.

When the rain stops—yes, it’s raining in Oregon in mid-July!—I’ll gather a bowlful of linden flowers and lay them in a shady, breezy spot to dry. As I pick, I’ll pass by the older, yellower flowers, which can be narcotic. But I won’t forget that, even when made from freshly opened flowers, linden tea has proven medical powers. It promotes sweating during fevers, loosens mucus, and helps relieve hypertension and stomach cramps. Most famously, linden tea soothes the nerves.

I like my homegrown linden tea for its mild but pleasing aroma and flavor and for the joy of watching the blossoms open before my eyes. And, on a winter’s evening— say, after a fractious community meeting—I often welcome linden’s mild sedative effect. For pleasure and as medicine, linden beats stinking chamomile hands-down.

UPDATE 2022: Long after writing this piece I found out that there is actually a plant called stinking chamomile, Anthemis cotula. It’s also called dog-fennel, possibly because it is toxic to dogs. Much to the distress of farmers ever since, Johnny Appleseed planted it wherever he wandered, thinking it a cure for malaria. Until recently, stinking chamomile was the only chamomile I knew besides pineapple weed. Much better is true chamomile, A. nobile, also known as Roman chamomile.

Early-Summer Aioli Platter

Just as the tomatoes and peppers are timidly stretching their rootlets into the (finally!) warming soil of the main vegetable garden, we’re filling baskets with produce from the raised beds. Every mealtime provokes a variant of the same question: What shall we do with all the cauliflower/peas/artichokes /scallions/turnips?

On a warm day, my choice is often an aioli platter. Aioli is the finest way to celebrate the garlic harvest, which also happens about this time. At the moment, our garlic stalks are just starting to bend; we’ll probably harvest in a day or two. Fortunately, the garlic we grow keeps well for more than a year, so last week I twisted a bulb from one of the last of 2010’s braids hanging from the kitchen wall and started mashing a few cloves for aioli.

Aioli is the Provençal word for an emulsion of olive oil, egg yolk, salt, and garlic. Common also in Catalonia and elsewhere in eastern Spain, where it’s known as allioli, this sauce is almost certainly the original mayonnaise (whose name comes from Mahón, Menorca). Aioli goes well with many foods, but we usually have it with boiled or steamed vegetables and hard-boiled eggs.

To make aioli, you must mash the garlic thoroughly; fresh garlic is preferred for its ease of mashing as well as for its flavor. I smack three or four cloves with the side of a chef’s knife, peel the cloves, and then either smack them again and mince them or else pound them in a mortar. I combine the garlic with about 1/4 teaspoon salt and an egg yolk—or, if I’m feeling lazy, a whole egg. Then I get out the olive oil. I use extra-virgin, but not the best; I prefer the flavor of aioli made with relatively bland oil. Or, for a very different and even more delicious taste, I substitute roasted hazelnut oil.

I have often sat on the floor with a small bowl between my bare feet and beaten in the oil with a whisk, drop by drop, but if I start with a whole egg or two yolks I can use a hand blender, running it on high speed while pouring in the oil, about 1 cup. I stop blending when the aioli is very thick. This happens in less than a minute with the hand blender, and perhaps 10 minutes with a whisk.

If I beat in a little prepared mustard and lemon juice, I have mayonnaise. But usually I prefer plain aioli.

I chill the aioli while cooking the vegetables and eggs. Last week I steamed artichokes, cauliflower, potatoes, and snow peas. The artichokes went in one pan, with about an inch of water, for an hour. I put the cauliflower, broken into florets, on top of the artichokes for the last 10 minutes of cooking. In another saucepan, I simmered small new potatoes, with salt and about 1/2 inch water, for 20 minutes; I added snow peas on top of the potatoes for the last 4 minutes. I boiled eggs in a third saucepan, in this way: I covered the eggs with cold water, put the lid on the pan, brought the water to a boil, and then turned off the heat. The eggs were ready in 12 minutes. I rinsed them in cold running water. Usually I’d peel them in the kitchen, but on this lazy day we did the peeling at the table.

I don’t chill the cooked vegetables or boiled eggs for aioli. They are best when still slightly warm.

The last, nearly essential ingredient of an aioli platter is bread. It can be brown or white, toasted or not. For me, aioli and good bread alone can make a satisfying meal.

Last week’s aioli platter was a fine one, but my mouth is watering now for the one that’s coming soon, just after we pull his year’s fresh, juicy garlic from its bed.