The picnic menu from last week featured what was essentially a version of the Ploughman’s Lunch (bread, pickles, cheese) with hummus added for a lighter summery touch. This is a simple meal, and it’s also a great one for August if you happen to enjoy creativity in pickles and pickle-like items.
When I’ve got produce from the farmers’ market or garden that I don’t have an immediate plan for, I look to Andrea Chesman’s The Pickled Pantry for inspiration. We all know the traditional pickles in a jar, but Chesman’s book presents plenty of variations for freezer pickles, refrigerator pickles, simple relishes that you can make with what you have on hand and then use to brighten up meals throughout several weeks.
I use a version of her Freezer Curry Chips – my interpretation involves zucchini and also tossing the end result with farmers’ market celery leaves marinated in a lemon-based vinaigrette. Farmers’ market celery not just because I look for local food, but because it has more leaves and more flavorful leaves than most supermarket varieties that downplay or even eliminate them. These pickles go well with cheddar cheese and thick bread.
And the hummus. Hummus is not traditional in the Ploughman Lunch tray — hard boiled eggs or meats would be more so — but I love hummus with pickles. I will not make a hummus sandwich without pickles. Not everyone stands with me on this, so be it. If nothing else it is an excuse to mention here a trick for making hummus of a smooth consistency – from the Food52 Genius Recipe files, and linked here (the short version of the trick: baking soda). Once you’ve got the traditional hummus, you can dress it up with any spice blends you like. I also use roasted vegetable purees for flavor, red bell peppers and eggplant would be traditional but I’m having trouble thinking of a roasted vegetable that wouldn’t work.
I realize I just outlined an interpretation of a Ploughman’s Lunch that includes far more cooking than the original; we can call it the summertime weekend version.