Last weekend we traveled down to the Bay Area for my nephew’s wedding. I have many remarkable nephews, so just to clarify; this is the one who can juggle fire. Somehow he went from a tiny little boy in red overalls and an impish grin to a fine grown-up man with a career and a house and now a family (but still the same impish grin). Go figure. Auntie’s proud.
It was a quick trip, but we were able to spend Friday afternoon in San Francisco. Oh, that breezy, magical city. We had lunch at the Zuni Café. Although I have visited San Francisco many times, and I have The Zuni Café Cookbook, and Michael has been there before, this was my first time at the iconic restaurant. The experience was everything I anticipated, and more.
Sunlight poured through tall windows, glinting off the polished copper bar. At every table, casually elegant patrons chatted as they ate. The wait staff glided cheerfully past at just the right intervals, never obtrusive, but always available. And the food—adjectives fail me. I had spaghetti with roasted cauliflower, fennel, and capers. Michael had a burger on focaccia bread with pickled onions and zucchini on the side, and shoestring potatoes.
Then we absorbed a caramel pot de crème and a cheese plate with toasted almonds and chunks of bittersweet chocolate. All of this was accompanied by a series of what-the-hell-I’m-living-this-one-up drinks–from aperitif through digestif. So maybe it was the grappa that filled me with a giddy sense that all was utterly well in the world, but I think it was more than just the buzz of that firewater in my veins.
As our meal drew to a close, I leaned back in my chair for a satisfied moment. A platter of oysters arrived at the next table, then a bottle of champagne. The waiter poured, then retreated. The couple raised their glasses and toasted each other, “To the greatest day, ever!”
I’ve been pickling like crazy this summer. Several weeks ago, inspired by The Zuni Café Cookbook, I tried my hand at pickling Sea Beans (also known as glasswort). Sea Beans are a succulent that is foraged from coastal areas during the summer. They are delicious sautéed–a bit like asparagus. It turns out that they are also delicious pickled. Pickled Sea Beans are delicate and crunchy. I like them on a sandwich, in the same way that I would top a sandwich with cucumber pickles, peppers, or olives, to provide some sharp, vinegary bite. They are also excellent–chopped up a bit–on a potato salad or pasta salad, or anywhere you want a little kick.
I am not specifying amounts for this recipe, because it all depends on the size and quantity of jars you intend to fill. If you find Sea Beans at the farmer’s market, buy some to sauté fresh and a few more handfuls to try pickled.
Pickled Sea Beans
(adapted from The Zuni Café Cookbook)
- fresh sea beans
- white wine vinegar
- peeled garlic cloves
Sort through sea beans, pinching off and discarding any woody stems or discolored sprigs. Rinse well, then pack in glass jars with 2-3 peeled garlic cloves per jar. Add vinegar to cover. Put lids on jars. Let sit for two weeks in a cool, dark cupboard, then refrigerate. The sea beans are ready to eat at that time, but will keep well in the refrigerator for quite a while.