taking a ‘bite of eugene’

grilled figs

 

I’m back from the Bite of Eugene with photos and tasting notes to share!

Bite is an annual foodie fest that brings local restaurants and eaters together for a day of small plates, live demonstrations, and unique edible wares. This was my third year attending the Bite, and each time it’s fun to see who’s cooking as the event evolves. There were about 20 food vendors serving bites this time around, which seemed a bit on the light side for a festival like this, but it has so much potential and I really hope to see it grow in the future with more restaurants, food carts, and small-time manufacturers participating. That said, I had some pretty awesome food…

My favorite bite of the day came from Party Downtown. Their grilled fig with crème fraîche and mint was gorgeous in its simplicity. The caramelized sweetness from grilling the fig paired with the creamy sourness of the crème fraîche and the bright aromatic mint created a delicious harmony. The fig was so tender and juicy that it almost had the sensation of melting in my mouth.

I also tried their chicken rillette with housemade wheat thins. Mark made the rillette by simmering shredded chicken in lots and lots of truffle butter, resulting in a crazy moist dish that was like a fancy chicken salad. They served a blueberry pie too, which was a real stunner…

 

partymenu grilledfig2 chickenrilletblueberrypie

It was really hot out there and I was parched! A thirst quenching treat that I look forward to sipping each Bite is the “frosty frothy iced teas” from J-Tea International. Josh travels to small family tea farms in Taiwan and China in search of special, high quality oolongs, puer, black, and green teas for his beautiful tea house in Eugene.

A few years ago, he started doing a shaken iced tea preparation that helps the tea flavor blossom by introducing air bubbles to the infusion. He also adds a touch of simple syrup or fruit for a subtle sweetness. I loved the Charcoal Dawn, which had lightly smoky notes and a rich creaminess.

 

jtea2

 

Next up was a bite from the food cart Delacata. Their southern fried menu always catches my appetite. Being from the South, I couldn’t resist the Dungeness Crab Hushpuppy. My nugget had a crispy crunch on the outside, a piping hot and delicate crumb, with some nice succulent lumps of  crab in the middle. The spicy remoulade was terrific, if not a little overpowering for the fragile sweetness of the crab meat. Very tasty overall! I also heard a rumor that Delacata is opening a brewery downtown sometime soon with a menu featuring their signature southern cuisine. Exciting!

 

delacata hushpup

 

This year the Bite offered some great seminars and cooking demos including one about cooking duck. Iron Chef Oregon Jeff Strom of Koho Bistro taught the audience how to butcher a duck and then demonstrated the art of confit. I left feeling quite inspired to try it out, since duck confit makes my taste buds grow wings and fly to flavor paradise.

 

bite13classes biteduck

 

Two of my favorite confectionary shops were there too slinging some special sweets. Red Wagon Creamery makes super dense, rich ice cream with the highest butterfat content possible and fresh seasonal ingredients. (You might find a pint of Blackcap Raspberry Cheesecake in my fridge right now.) Stuart told me that he and Emily hope to have homemade drumsticks and ice cream sandwiches available in the shop by this winter! Droooool.

The other sweet yum yums that I love were being offered by Off the Waffle. I have been smitten with their Liège waffles for years now. Made from a yeast-based dough sparkling with imported Belgian pearled sugar, the entire pastry caramelizes to create an almost sticky, but crisp shell with perfectly fluffy goodness inside.

 

redwagonsign

offthewaff

 

Before I left, I picked up a jar of this exquisite rose petal jam from PremRose Edibles. Linda offers several varieties including a chocolate chipotle rose sauce that was really incredible, but I splurged for the fresh rose jam made from her own organic homegrown flowers. It’s fantastically dreamy stuff and I can’t wait to play with it in recipes!

 

rosejam

Another year at Bite has come and gone! If you didn’t make it out this year, mark your calendar for next summer to experience some truly unique flavors of the Eugene food scene.

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perfect hash browns with garlic scapes

perfect hash browns by Salt+Fat+Whiskeyperfect hash browns by Salt+Fat+Whiskey

I have a serious weakness for fried potatoes.

A big greasy bag of chips, a plate of crispy pommes frites, a dish of allioli slathered patatas bravas, or a pile of golden pan-smashers are my culinary kryptonite. They take possession of my will like no other treat can. If there’s an open bag in the house, that crunchy, salty deliciousness becomes my all-consuming obsession. I told you this was serious!

Since they obviously can’t be trusted, easily snackable potato products have been banned from my home. This is the only reasonable solution for someone with a problem like mine. However, I’m occasionally seduced by the mountains of rainbow skinned beauties at the market. My mind starts racing with fried potato fantasies when I see them. I toss a few in my basket. Hey, if I’m going to (over)indulge, at least I’ve got to work for it, right?

I don’t play around when it comes to my favorite fried potato of all – the hash brown. Give me the shredded style of course, never diced. Why do so many breakfast joints in Eugene serve squishy home fries covered in a glop of gravy? I have absolutely zero tolerance for soggy, mushy, or limp, but sadly this is what you’ll find around here. Maybe it’s a regional thing?

When I want real hash browns, I make them myself…

perfect hash browns by Salt+Fat+Whiskey

My hash browns are crunchy and golden on the outside with just the right amount of moisture once you break through the crust. If you make them my way, you will soon put an end to those sad, slightly charred mushed potato cake thingies that haunt past breakfast memories. Here is my method…

perfect hash browns

1 4-5 inch potato for every 2 servings (the best to use are low in moisture and high starch like russets, stored at room temperature)
fine sea salt
organic extra virgin olive oil
garlic scapes*

Line a colander with a dish towel and place it in the sink. Shred your potatoes into a bowl. Salt them generously and mix well using your hands to begin the liquid leaching process. You want about 1/2 tsp of salt for every medium potato. Dump the salted shredded potato into the colander and lay another dish towel on top. Using your body weight, push down to squeeze out the liquid. Allow to sit for about an hour, pushing and squeezing occasionally. You might need to switch out the towels halfway through. The drier your potatoes turn out the better! Slice the garlic scapes into 1/4 to 1/3 inch rounds. (*Generally, I’m a hash brown purest and don’t add other flavors, but these pretty garlic scapes inspired me. Feel free to leave them out!) In a cast iron pan, heat about 1/2 inch of oil over med-high heat. Put the potatoes into a bowl and mix in the garlic scapes.

Once the oil is hot, take a handful of shredded potato and form gently into a patty. Slide the patty into the oil and press down with a spatula to even out the thickness. Allow to fry for about 3 minutes and then flip. Cook for another 3 minutes and flip again. You want a nice golden brown color on both sides. Once that happens, remove your patties from the oil and drain them on a plate of 100% recycled paper towels. (Sorry, PSA of the day!) Before frying your next batch, be sure to scoop out all of the little potato nuggets remaining in the oil or they will burn and ruin your next patties. Depending on your stove, you might also need to adjust the heat down just a touch and then bring it back up once the next batch is good and going. That will help you avoid burning right away. After you’ve fried every bit of shredded potato, give them a little shake of salt and then there’s just one thing left to do…

perfect hash browns by Salt+Fat+Whiskey

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fancy frozen pizza makeover #1

Frozen Pizza Makeover - Salt+Fat+Whiskey
Frozen Pizza Makeover - Salt+Fat+Whiskey

I like to stock my freezer with those stupidly expensive organic frozen pizzas when I find them on sale. You know the ones, right? So freakin’ convenient, but for $10 a pop they aren’t all that tasty on their own.

However, on lazy nights, these frozen pies are my blank canvases. They make quick and dirty meals, always re-imagined with a magical (questionable?) hodgepodge of misfit ingredients from my fridge, garden, and pantry. When cooked on a nice hot pizza stone and handled with a wooden peel, who needs delivery?

For fun, I thought I’d start sharing these experiments! Here’s the first…

 

fancy frozen pizza makeover #1

Frozen Pizza Makeover - Salt+Fat+Whiskey

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melted leek & lemon stew with feta polenta

Feta Polenta by Salt+Fat+Whiskey

I did not grow up eating polenta.

When I was a kid, a steaming pot of buttery white grits coaxed me out of bed every Sunday morning. The walls would buzz and bounce with Rubber Soul on vinyl while I piled my plate high with scrambled eggs, hash browns, crispy bacon, syrup-smothered blueberry pancakes, and a heaping spoonful of that slow spreading salty corn mush. It was perfect. Creamy and hot and seasoned with plenty of black pepper.

These breakfasts were epic and never missed. They often ended with me sipping a small mug of coffee swirled with milk, chocolate syrup, and a dollop of ice cream – because Dad has a generous sweet tooth. Most of the hours following these meals were spent climbing spindly oaks to catch lizards or having Super Soaker battles with the neighborhood boys. Those breakfasts fueled my childhood and the memory of them still makes me crave home.

The first time I had polenta was sometime in my teens as I was navigating vegetarianism. I bought one of those plastic sausage tubes of pre-cooked polenta and fumbled my way through a pretty weird and very dry baked polenta cake thingy with marinara dumped on top. Definitely not as satisfying as Mom’s grits. It wasn’t until many years later that I discovered the delicious potential this Italian style held – both creamy and grilled.

There is discussion on the interwebs about whether there’s any real difference between polenta and grits, but they’re both ground cornmeal that can be used interchangeably for various preparations. Back in the South, processed white grits are more traditional, but I much prefer some gorgeous stoneground heirloom corn grits/polenta, and especially with cheese.

Feta Polenta by Sat+Fat+Whiskey

 

This recipe came together on a whim and turned out crazy good. I bought the polenta and a few leeks at the market, grabbed a couple of lemons from the bar, popped open a can of garbanzos and went for it. It is certainly comfort food and makes a lovely meal for those balmy late spring days that turn a little chilly when the sun sets.

 

Melted Leek Stew by Salt+Fat+Whiskey

Melted Leek Stew by Sat+Fat+Whiskey

Melted Leek Stew by Salt+Fat+Whiskey

 

melted leek & lemon stew

2 organic free range chicken breasts, oven baked
2 leeks, thinly sliced
1/2 onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1 can organic garbanzo beans
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup diced tomatoes
2 lemons, juiced
2 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups white wine
4 tbsp all-purpose flour
4 tbsp butter
2 tbsp organic extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp oregano
1/2 tsp rosemary
1 bay leaf
fine sea salt + cracked pepper

Over medium heat, melt 2 tbsp of the butter in a cast iron skillet. Add the leeks and stir. Toss in a pinch of salt. Allow the leeks to slowly cook, stirring often, until they begin to become translucent and caramelize. Mix in the onions, carrots, 1/2 the garlic, and peppers. Continue to stir and cook until the onions begin to turn translucent, but the carrots still have bite.

In a separate pan, make a blond roux: heat the remaining 2 tbsp of butter and the 2 tbsp of olive oil in the pan until melted together. Stir in the flour and whisk for several minutes until combined and smooth. That’s your roux which will act as a thickener for the sauce. Next, slowly whisk in the white wine and mix well. Then add the chicken stock and 1/2 of the lemon juice. Pour over the veggie mixture in the skillet and stir together. Add the herbs.

In another pan, toss the strained garbanzo beans with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and the remaining lemon juice and garlic. Gently toast over medium-high heat until the garbanzos just begin to brown on one side while stirring often. Be careful not to burn the garlic. Add the tomatoes to the beans and stir together. Now combine this with your stew base. Toss in your freshly baked chicken and cover the stew with a lid.

 

feta polenta

2 cups water
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup polenta/corn grits
1/3 cup chopped feta cheese

In a pot, bring liquid to a boil and then add your polenta. Stir well, reduce heat to a slight simmer, and stir well for 5 to 10 minutes. Check the texture often. You want the liquid to boil off to the point where the polenta becomes thick but is still creamy and smooth – not dry, chunky, or solid. You want your polenta to relax on the plate. Remove from the heat, stir in the feta, a tablespoon of butter, salt and pepper to taste, and then cover and allow to stand for a few minutes before serving with stew ladled on top. Eat!

 

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farmers market haul #1

MarketHaul

Just made my way back home from the farmers market with a basket overflowing. I’m cooking up brunch for two in the morning and think garlic scape hash browns with a carrot top yogurt sauce, lamb bacon, cherry cheddar biscuits, and a fried egg sounds about perfect. Maybe a spicy Bloody Maria with extra dilly beans too. Can’t wait to finally get my baby plants set in the garden tomorrow with a little buzz on and a belly full of happiness.

 

What’s in the basket:

blackcap raspberries (Rubus leucodermis)

cherries

2 bunches of carrots with tops

baby kales

mesclun greens

lamb bacon

onions

purple skinned potatoes

pink skinned potato

yukon gold potatoes

garlic scapes

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strawberry chèvre buckwheat muffins

Strawberry Chevre Muffins by SaltFatWhiskey 4

 

Several weeks ago I wandered the Saturday Market early in the morning, bagging up piles of gorgeous mesclun greens from Horton Farm, sugar sweet carrots, and tight-budded kale raab. My basic staples for the week.

Then…suddenly…a flat of glowing red berries passed by.

My jaw dropped as I stood there dumbfounded. Was this some kind of evil-spirited mirage? Were the berry fairies taunting me for my insatiable summertime berry lust? WHAT THE HELL WAS GOING ON?

Spinning on my toes I squeaked, “Where did you get those…” as the glorious berry mountain appeared on the table before me. Rumor has it that Groundworks Organics is going to offer Oregon-grown strawberries year round now. I might be, uh,  just a little bit excited about this.

So, balancing a massive box of strawberries, I snaked my way through the crowd, stopping at Lonesome Whistle Farm to pick up some locally grown and milled buckwheat and red fife flours, as well as some goat cheese from Fern’s Edge Dairy.

 And this is what happened…

Strawberry Chevre Muffins by SaltFatWhiskey 3

 

strawberry chèvre buckwheat muffins 

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup organic sugar
1 large backyard egg
3/4 cup Greek yogurt
1 1/2 cups flour or flour mix (I used 3/4 cup buckwheat flour and 3/4 cup red fife flour)
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup organic strawberries, chopped
1/2 cup chevre, crumbled
optional: 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a muffin tin with 12 paper liners. Cream butter and sugar together with an electric beater, immersion blender, or by hand. It should look like a light cloud made of soft beach sand when done. Add the egg and beat until well combined. Next add the yogurt and stir. In another bowl, sift together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Divide the dry mix in half and add to the wet mix, stirring the first half until moist before adding the second. Mix until just combined. Gently fold in your strawberries, chevre, and walnuts. I reserved a few crumbles of cheese to sprinkle on each top before baking. The dough will be thicker than typical muffin batter thanks to the Greek yogurt, so be careful to fill each cup 3/4 full at the most. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. The tops should be golden and cheese crumbles lightly toasted.

 

Strawberry Chevre Muffins by SaltFatWhiskey 2

These are decadent with a rich, moist crumb. The natural sugars in the strawberries become wonderfully caramelized, producing a concentrated sunripened berry flavor explosion. Combined with the salty, creamy goat cheese and buttery walnuts, these make some dreamy little treats…

Strawberry Chevre Muffins by SaltFatWhiskey

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raw walnut nettle pesto

walnut nettle pesto by Salt Fat Whiskey

With a seemingly ferocious nature, Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) hasn’t quite caught on around the country as the gourmet wild wonder it truly is. Here in the Northwest, it’s a beloved harbinger of spring, arriving on market shelves and restaurant menus each April in many delicious incarnations.

My kitchen is no exception. As soon as the plants are ready, I carefully clip the tender tops (no more than 6 inches from the top or roughly the first 2 sets of leaves) into my basket to make infused vinegar, frittatas, biscuits, curries, pizza, smoothies, soups, and of course, nettle pesto with a twist. When harvested this way, the nettles will continue to leaf out and provide food for many months, so expect more nettle recipes to come!

nettlewoods

Such a vibrant glowing green. And look at those spiked trichomes. Delicate, yet absolutely effective. Go ahead…touch it!

Brave herbie people (aka crazies like me) will often pick a leaf bare-handed, fold it just so, and munch on it straight raw. The exquisite nutrient power hits immediately as I savor the mild flavor which is bright grassy and slightly nutty. But, really, it’s totally unnecessary to risk stung lips to enjoy nettles. The spines surrender their power quickly when exposed to either heat or pressure, making cooking or processing good options.

Most nettle pesto recipes out there call for blanching the fresh nettle leaves first. I like to make mine with raw leaves instead, since the food processor will take care of those stingers. This way, you get the maximum nutritive value of the raw greens.

I also like to use sweet and fatty local walnuts from Grateful Harvest Farm, mixed with some deep green organic pumpkin seeds instead of pine nuts from the store. Most pine nuts you buy these days are imported from China –  and that’s a long way to travel just to make some pesto. Most any oily nut will work well here.

I dream of collecting Piñon Pine nuts from the Southwest someday for this recipe. Oh, the decadence! My friend Heron gifted me a jar full of them last year and they were the most delicious, sweet, buttery treasures. Truly little nuggets of perfection. Until I can get my own, I’m sticking with these…

walnutpesto

nettlepestoblend

 

walnut nettle pesto

4 cups nettle leaves

1 cup basil leaves

1/2 cup walnuts

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds

1 cup organic virgin olive oil

1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

1/4 cup Asiago cheese, grated

5 cloves garlic

1.5 tsp pink salt

Wearing gloves, snip the tender nettle tops into a paper bag. Remove the leaves from the stems and rinse well in cool water. Blend the first four ingredients together in a food processor until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and process until well incorporated.

The consistency should look something like this…

nettlepesto2

Spread generously on toasted baguette, pizza, sandwiches, use to grill meat, whisk in scrambles, add to vinaigrette, garnish soups, mix in mashed potatoes, toss with roasted vegetables, eat by the spoonful, and definitely make some pesto pasta. Any leftover pesto will freeze nicely for an easy future meal.

This batch was used to make some super tasty pesto chicken and sun-dried tomato fettuccine…

pestopasta2

 

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butter roasted chicken & spring asparagus

roastchicken2

Eating perfectly skin-crisped oven roasted chicken always makes me feel strangely luxurious and nourished like a queen. There are few dishes as profoundly satisfying after a long day or easier to prepare.

While baking a whole chicken can be a demanding project for a weeknight, roasting a few breasts or thighs takes less than an hour. Choosing bone-in and skin-on happy chicken for this is key since the meat will be exceptionally tender, juicy, and flavorful.

Chicken skin creates a magical force field that protects the delicate moisture from drying out of the meat, and if you stuff butter underneath, it transforms deliciously into this…

chickenroast

The asparagus came on a bit early this year, and that’s pretty exciting if you’re into that kinda thing – and I am – especially when it’s roasted with fresh garlic, lemons, olive oil, white wine, salt, and pepper. I consulted the tomes to find a foolproof technique for these beauties and settled on the Joy of Cooking’s Roasted Asparagus as my guide.

asparagus

 

Butter Roasted Chicken

2 local/organic/free-range chicken breasts

1 – 2 tbsp butter, divided between breasts

1 tbsp organic olive oil

1/2 lemon, juiced

1/4 cup white wine

2 cloves garlic, sliced

salt + pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Evaluate the size of your chicken breasts and using your best judgement stuff an “appropriate” amount of butter under the skin. Whatever that means to you will be fine. Salt and pepper the top and underside of the breasts well. I like a good amount of pepper. In a small bowl, mix the rest of the ingredients together and pour into a glass baking pan. Place the chicken in the pan and drizzle a bit of the liquid over the top using a spoon. Bake for 15 minutes and then baste the chicken with the pan juices. Allow to roast for another 15 minutes and remove. Using a knife, cut into the thickest part to check the color. Pink means it is not ready. Check every 5 minutes after that until done. Total cooking time can vary from 30-45 minutes depending on size and thickness. You can also use a meat thermometer to make sure the temperature of the thickest part reaches a safe 165 degrees.

 

Lemon Garlic Asparagus

 1 lb young, tender asparagus spears

1 tbsp organic olive oil

1/2 lemon, juiced

1 tbsp white wine

4 cloves garlic, pressed

several lemon wheels

salt + pepper

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Mix all ingredients (except for asparagus and lemon wheels) together in a bowl and pour into a shallow pan. Toss the asparagus in the mixture to coat well. Spread out in the pan and lay lemon wheels on top. Roast for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring once while cooking.

 

Smoked Paprika Yogurt Sauce

1 cup Greek yogurt

1/2  lemon, juiced

1 tsp smoked paprika

2 cloves garlic, pressed

salt + pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together and spoon lovingly over your roasted asparagus. This sauce recipe was inspired by Smitten Kitchen and turned out. so. so. good.

roastchicken3

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corpse reviver 2 on a sunday

corpserevivergroup

We woke late in the morning, moseying into the kitchen to fry smoked bacon slices picked up at Deck Family Farm during Saturday Market the day before, and scramble some locally laid eggs with fresh basil and white cheddar. After a night shared celebrating a friend’s visit from Florida, we needed a classic “hair of the dog” brunchy refresher. This seemed especially appropriate…

 

corpse reviver 2

3/4 ounce Gin

3/4 ounce fresh squeezed organic lemon juice

3/4 ounce Cointreau

3/4 ounce Cocchi Americano (an aperitif wine)

Absinthe rinse

fresh ice

Chill a coupe glass in the freezer. Remove and pour a dash of absinthe into the glass. Swirl the liquid around to coat the bowl of the coupe and then pour out (into your mouth). Mix all other ingredients together in a shaker with fresh ice and shake well. Double strain with a Boston strainer and a mesh strainer into the glass to catch any lemon pulp. I am a pulp fiend, but this is neither the time nor the place! Drink. Feel better.

corpsereviver2

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sweet + sour pickled dandelion buds

dandysbudjar

Pop, pop…pop, pop, pop…pop!

My garden is gradually turning sunny yellow with every blossom. Our winter was so mild and spring so unexpectedly warm that I have definitely…uh…kinda fallen behind on weeding. Just a little. The plants seem to be well aware of this fact and have taken advantage of my delayed gardening instinct. At least inspiration is creeping in!

I first heard about pickling dandelion buds from the wonderful Rosalee de la Foret. After playing with her recipe, I discovered something really special. Something you are going to want to make too. Like, right now.

dandelionpickle1

sweet + sour pickled dandelions

1.5 cups of tightly closed, freshly harvested dandelion buds

2 garlic cloves, pressed

1 tbsp fresh grated ginger root

1 tsp organic yellow mustard seed

1 organic bay leaf

1/3 cup local honey

organic tamari or shoyu sauce

organic apple cider vinegar

Gather dandelion buds emerging from the base of a basal rosette or that are shooting up further along the flowering stalk, but have not bloomed. You want to look closely and be sure that the flowers haven’t yet opened. They should be vibrant green and tightly closed, otherwise you will end up with a jar full of limp, floaty flowers trying to go to seed – and you can’t take that to a party! If you compare multiple plants, you will easily recognize the difference. Pluck each bud from its stem. Take a look at the first two pictures above and pull off the leafy whorl of bracts just below the bud. If you don’t feel like going through this step, it will be okay, but you won’t ever bare the cool mark of dandelion latex staining your fingertips. Just fyi.

Dump the dandelion buds into a pint jar. Add the garlic, ginger, mustard seed, and honey. Pour the shoyu or tamari until the jar is 1/3 full. Fill the remainder with apple cider vinegar and top with a bay leaf. Shake, shake, shake. Allow to pickle for one week in the refrigerator. Eat. Eat. Eat. Eat. Eat.

These are ridiculously delicious alone, on a cheese plate, in stir fry, salads, omelettes, sandwiches, on pizza, and in tacos too.

pickled-buds

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