Thursday, September 07, 2017

Neon Pickled Squash / Bean Feast redux / Books

I am running a new recipe below, for Neon Pickled Squash, even though what I really want to do is run the recipe for Bean Feast again. Because I’ve run it before, I know, but I cannot overemphasize the staple-ness of this recipe at my house. We have it at least every other week, if not weekly. And it’s almost always pinto beans, but sometimes I mix it up with black beans, because we’re crazy like that. If you are too lazy to click over to the link, the idea is that you cook up a perfect pot of plain beans, in your pressure cooker, with plenty of salt. I start with 2 or 3 cups of dried beans, a handful of salt, and water to generously cover; bring it to a boil, shut off the heat, leave for an our; cook at high pressure for 8 minutes (6 for black beans), then let the steam release on its own. 

A perfectly doctored bowl. I sliced the squash pickles into planks.
A pressure cooker yields beans that are perfectly tender and creamy inside, while remaining unmushy. You can bite them, and the skins are intact, but they middles are soft. I can’t even explain how wonderful they are; you simply can’t achieve this level of bean perfection with regular boiling, and believe me, I tried for years. (If you have a newfangled Magic Pot, please let me know what you think.)

The classic Bean Feast. Photo credit Ben Newman.
Then you serve everyone a glorious dishful of steaming beans (with or without rice, as you prefer) and put out an assortment yummy and attractive DIY toppings such as:

·      Escabeche and/or pickled jalapenos
·      Pickled radishes and/or squash (below)
·      Crumbled feta or shredded cheddar or Jack
·      A little cruet (!) of tasty olive oil
·      Coarse salt
·      Lime wedges
·      Hot sauce, including something smoky
·      Diced avocado
·      Slivered cabbage or romaine lettuce
·      Cilantro leaves
·      Chopped white or red onions
·      Sour cream

You are going for maximum flavor, color, texture, nutrition, so assort the toppings accordingly.

From the New Yorker. . . amiright 
But if you’re really here just for the pickled squash, and a bean feast isn’t even in your future, you’re still in luck. Because these are wonderful pickles—sweet-and-sour and good on a sandwich or burger, in a quesadilla, with cheese and crackers, or right out of the jar—and they’re easy to make. Plus, you’re not canning them, so you don’t even need to lie awake listening for pings and fretting about botulism and imagining gravestones that say "Thanks for the pickles." Just stick them in the fridge, like a normal person.

Beauty x 4 
Meanwhile, thank you to everyone—all of you parents and readers and teachers and librarians—who already bought One Mixed-Up Night, blogged about it, ordered it for your school or library, read it to your kids, reviewed it on Amazon or Goodreads, requested it at your local bookstore, wrote to me about it, and recommended it. Those things all help books sales SO MUCH! Also, there is a movement afoot to leave copies of the book in IKEA stores as a form of guerrilla book publicity. Please stay tuned for more on that, or go rogue, and sneak a copy into your local IKEA and enjoy my eternal gratitude. Also, if you send me photos, I will post them here!

For you grown-ups out there, I just finished this book, which I loved, and am reading this book now, which I am loving. Oh, reading. It really is a haven in a heartless world. Stay safe, beloved readers and resisters and dreamers and Floridians. Love to you all. xo

Trombetta, c/o Renees Garden seed company
Neon Pickled Squash
This is adapted from the recipe for Zucchini Pickles in the wonderful book preserving book Put ‘Em Up. The pickles are crazily yellow and perfectly seasoned—bread-and-butterish, but spicier and less sweet. Also, the ice treatment keeps them nice and crunchy. I make these every September because my friend Meredith grows these enormous crookneck Trombetta squash that are so enormous and so crooknecked they look like green pythons that have swallowed swans. They are very firm and lovely, though, and they make wonderful pickles. You use, like, half of one to get two pounds of slices. Seriously. Then you keep the other half in the fridge and saw away at it intermittently, like it's a gigantic and bland vegetarian salami.

2 pounds summer squash (crookneck, zucchini, or the ginormous trombetta), sliced into ¼-inch rounds
1 onion, sliced into half moons
1 tray of ice cubes
½ cup kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
2 cups white vinegar
2 cups water
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 small red chili or 1 teaspoon pepper flakes (if you like spicy pickles)

In a large bowl, toss the zucchini and onions with the salt, then crack the ice over it and add just enough cold water to cover. Leave it for two hours, then drain it, fish out any unmelted ice, and use your clean hands to pack the veggies into a large, very clean 2-quart jar (or several smaller jars). (The original recipe has you rinse the squash, but I find the salt amount to be more perfect if it’s unrinsed. Up to you!)

Bring the remaining ingredients to a boil, then pour over the squash in the jar(s). Use a canning funnel if you have one. And if you don’t have one, buy a canning funnel, for god’s sake. You will use it everyday to fill lunchbox thermoses, and you will wonder what you were thinking, not having one.

Once the pickles are cool, store them in the fridge, where they will keep indefinitely.


  1. Your book arrived! Before I could do a promotional FB share June took the book to school for independent reading. Her three word book review: "it's the best." Also, isn't Less fantastic!? I'd read ten more books just like it if I could find them. Let us know if you do.

  2. Instant Pot: Worth it just for the beans! Or just for the rice. Or hard-boiled eggs. Or cheesecake (YES!). But I also have a few recipe-recipes that I love to make. I bought the 6-in-1, then generously gifted it to my daughter so I could get the 7-in-1 and make yogurt (although I hear it's easy to make using a slow cooker as well). I've only made one batch of yogurt so far, but it was also stellar. (If readers want to buy one, I believe Black Friday sales tend to be the best, especially if you are boycotting Amazon.)

  3. Your arrived and made my heart smile. 1. My son has always loved to read except this summer it was only for school because ...Netflix
    2. It made me feel like we are connected in this new magical way because you're my favorite to read in any format and he dove right in and carried it to the car and to bed even after his first days of school
    3. Everything about it speaks to us.
    4 it's perfect!

  4. I pre-ordered the book, and gave it to my daughter, who is Not a reader. However, 7th grade has brought the 20 book challenge. She read the inside flap, and said, "I'll read this one next." So thank you.

  5. I can't wait to order your book, but haven't yet because, despite the last four horrendous weeks at a new job that's kicking my ass, I have yet to actually be compensated for my time, and am desperately noticing the lack of available funds. Soon as I'm back on my feet, financially speaking, I plan to order copies as Christmas presents. :)

  6. I read it and loved loved loved it. I don't want to write details because I want your readers to enjoy it w/o my comments. Please write another YA novel(sayeth the 47 year old mom of 3 children under 10). Please just keep writing. xo

  7. Hi Catherine - waiting oh-so-patiently for our number for OM-UN to show at the local library. Meanwhile, have you read this? It ain't for kids, but I think you'd appreciate the reference.

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. Anonymous3:58 PM

    Loved the book - read it in one sitting. Just submitted a request to purchase for the Palo Alto, CA, library system (and they'll buy it - they're good like that). Will see what I can do about the public school libraries next!

    Can we start another book-recommending thread? I just read and deeply enjoyed:

    Ministry of Utmost Happiness (Arundhati Roy's new novel)

    March (Geraldine Brooks - takes the father from Little Women as the central character, utterly beautiful and devastating)

    And of course,

    The Bright Hour - Nina Riggs (which I know you've already recommended, Catherine, but it can't be recommended enough; it's the only book I've ever in my life bought multiple copies of to give away)

  10. We've been baking beans in the Dutch oven: measure your beans into the Dutch oven, cover with water by about 1-1/2 to 2 inches, and bake at 350 for 1-1/2 hours. I like to have dessert or cornbread mixed up to go in the oven when the beans come out. Ours will usually be cooked up into chili, with a bowl of plain beans set aside for my middle child. Also: olives, green and/or black for the beans. Yum!

  11. i read One Mixed Up Night this weekend and loved it. i am purchasing a second copy for my son's 4th grade classroom - his teacher read them The Mixed Up Files of Mrs BEF last year so it seems the perfect gift. bravo for this wonderful story you wrote!! very moving, made me laugh out loud several times! i think you captured the edge between youth/maturity just beautifully.

  12. muy buen articulo!.. soy estudiante de odontologia y no me da mucho tiempo de escribir :) siempre se aprende algo nuevo!