David Leite is the publisher of the James Beard Award-winning website Leite’s Culinaria and the author of The New Portuguese Table cookbook.
After sitting across the table from the same man for 20 years, you develop shortcuts. It used to be when The One and I were at a restaurant and our burgers, sandwiches, or barbecue was placed front of us, I’d ask, “Do you want my pickle?” Nowadays, he barely waits for the plates to hit the table before he’s reaching over.
Clearly, it’s safe to say that I wasn’t a particularly pickly person. My normal reaction to acidified Cucumis sativus, or any pickled vegetable for that matter, was meh. (Fried pickles being one long-standing exception, for obvious reasons.)
That is until I discovered quick pickling. A brisk dip in a vingear-based bath for as little as five to ten minutes and as long as an hour is all it takes to give a slight tarty tang to just about anything that comes out of the garden. And that means no more near-corrosive levels of sourness that cause your jaw to clamp shut in protest.
Some favorites of Leite’s Culinaria’s readers are:
1. Bread and Butter Pickles Ah, the classic. The old standby. The grandfather of many a pickle progeny. These pickles have far more flavor than store-bought—they’re a little less sweet, a little more zesty. And no wonder. Just look at that ingredients list: Vidalia onion, celery leaves, red pepper flakes, fenugreek, fennel seeds, turmeric, mustard seeds, allspice, cider vinegar, and maple syrup. A real stand-up pickle.
2. Pickled Zucchini (above) True story. When The One said he was making these pickled zucchini chips, I rolled my eyes. As I said, I was on the fence about pickles, and don’t get me started on zucchini. Personally, I don’t see the need for a vegetable that tastes about as interesting as wet egg cartons. But when he opened the jar at a party, I just couldn’t stop eating them. (Oh, to prove that even humble DIY pickles can be lovely to look at, I took this picture with my iPhone minutes before guests arrived.)
TABLE TIP: RUSTIC IS REAL When we served this jar of pickles, we simply unpopped the lid, stuck in two wooden forks (some metals can react to the brine), and passed it around the table. Somehow it seemed plating these would be like wearing Chanel to a barn dance.
3. Israeli Pickles What gives with the moniker “Israeli pickles?” As cookbook author Einat Admony says, “In the States, people most often think of pickled cucumbers when they hear the word ‘pickles.’ But in Israel, when we say hamutzim, we refer to all the vegetables that we pickle—including cauliflower, eggplants, carrots, celery, red onions, and beets—as Israeli pickles.” Move over, dill—there’s a new guy in town.
4. Pickled Eggs (above) These are Amy Thielen‘s creation. (Well, not the pickled eggs themselves. They’ve been around forever, but the slather of honey-mustard mayo—and the sprinkle of ground mustard seeds—that goes on top is all Amy.) So you get eggy, tart, sweet, and hot all in one bite. And a few slices of red beets are what give these eggs their hotrod pink color. Vovó Costa, my maternal grandmother, was mad about anything pink: pink dresses, pink hats (she had one that looked liked a big pink frosted cake), even pink Hostess Sno Balls. Every time I make these, I tip one up to the sky in her honor.
5. Sport Pepper Sauce If you’re not a Southerner, you might not be familiar with sport peppers. Being a child of the North, I certainly wasn’t. They’re little green and red and sometimes yellow hot peppers, Capiscum annuum, similar in taste to Tabasco and those Thai chiles found in Asian markets. For this recipe, the peppers are quickly boiled with white vinegar, then the whole shebang is poured into sterilized bottles. Let the concoction sit for a week and you have a funky, incendiary vinegar to add to cooked greens, fried chicken, heck, anything you anoint with hot sauce.
6. Pickled Carrots (top) Between you and me, you should be pampered as much as these carrots are. First, they’re buried in piles of kosher salt seasoned with lemon zest, pink and black peppercorns, rosemary, and thyme, and then they’re baked until jaw-droppingly tender and infused with flavor. After their hot salt spa, they’re dunked into a punchy brine for forty-five minutes. It does wonder for their complexion.
TABLE TIP: ACCESSORIZE, ACCESSORIZE, ACCESSORIZE: Dice these pickled carrots and sprinkle them on salads, use them as garnish for gazpacho (I love that), or serve them alongside a plate of cured meats, excellent cheeses, or pâtés.
7. Pickled Jalapeño Peppers Caution: Some cooks may find this recipe disturbingly… addictive. Some of the best things you can pick up at a Korean market are the pickled jalapeño peppers sold at the banchan bar. Banchan, according to author Debbie Lee, are small side dishes to a Korean meal. Collectively, several banchan can make an entrée. Hot, sour, and slightly sweet (the recipe calls for Sprite soda), these pickled jalapeño peppers do yeoman’s work as a condiment and are wicked good on burgers, sandwiches, and omelets.
8. Salt and Sugar Pickles No pickle post would be considered worthy if it didn’t have a recipe from David Chang, the mastermind behind everything Momofuku. In this little number, radishes, daikon radishes, cucumbers, and seedless watermelon are sprinkled with a mixture of salt and sugar (duh), and set aside for five minutes. Just as guests ring your doorbell, scoop the pickles into bowls and pull out the Presecco. When I said “drop-dead simple,” I wasn’t exaggerating.
Until next week,
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