I don’t know about you, but as the temperatures warm, I’m drawn to pickles. I love the chilly crunch that explodes all sorts of tangy flavors in my mouth, depending on the vegetable–or even fruit–I choose and the seasonings I include. Onions, radishes, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, and even fennel make for wonderful and unusual pickles; in other words, pickles don’t have to be synonymous with cucumbers–although they’re, of course, pretty wonderful, too. And while I will start with salt for some pickles, employing a tasty vinegar leads to some great flavors. Pair with herbs and spices–and a little sugar–let them sit briefly in the fridge and you’ll dazzle clients with your creativity. And, yes, they’re that easy.

The chefs I know in San Diego are always toying with pickles, using them as the acidic accompaniment to a charcuterie plate, to finish a piece of fatty fish like black cod or salmon, or in the case of my friend Chef Christopher Logan, to go with a dish of Peruvian-style Bay Scallop Ceviche.

He plated that dish with pickled red onions, pickled kumquats, and pickled purple carrot. Each flavor profile was unique in its own way, but together they further brightened what is always a fresh tasting dish, ceviche. I can see each of these three pickles served throughout the summer with many other dishes–grilled flank steak, fish tacos, sushi/sashimi, and even burgers–so I asked Logan for more his recipes–and can share them with you.

For the ceviche, Logan created a marinade for the scallops of lime zest and juice, garlic, basil, serrano chili (with seeds), cilantro, and sea salt. Blend the ingredients in a blender or food processor, then pour over the scallops and refrigerate.

Once the scallops have been “cooked” by the marinade, you can plate it with the pickles and add a little micro cilantro for garnish.

But before you get there, you’ve got to make those pickles. Here’s how:

Pickled Red Onion
from Christopher Logan

1 medium red onion
Sweet rice vinegar, enough to cover the onions in a bowl
1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons of white sugar

Peel and slice the onion–either whole or cut in half–and place in a metal or glass bowl. Mix together the salt, sugar, and vinegar until the salt and sugar dissolve. Pour over the onion and cover the mixture in plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight. The color should be a nice purple. Refrigerated, it can keep for a week.

Pickled Kumquats
from Christopher Logan

1 pound kumquats, washed in warm water and drained dry
2 cups sweet rice vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup kosher salt,
1/4 cup whole allspice
1 cup peeled whole garlic cloves
4 sticks fresh rosemary
1/8 cup red chile pepper
1/8 cup cracked black pepper

Place dry kumquats in a glass or metal bowl. Combine the vinegar, brown sugar, salt, and allspice in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Once the sugar has dissolved taste to be sure you have the flavor you want, then adjust to more sweet or spicy or salty. Add the garlic, rosemary, red chile pepper, and black pepper. Stir, and then pour over kumquats. To be sure the kumquats are covered, weigh them down with a plate. Let cool, then place in refrigerator for two days, mixing the pickles twice, tasting for the flavors you want and adjusting over that time. These can be kept for up to a month, covered, in the refrigerator.

Pickled Purple Carrots
from Christopher Logan

It’s tempting to blanch or roast these gorgeous carrots so they’ll retain their color, but Chef Logan says that, in fact, the color will end up bleeding in this recipe. So, instead, just peel them very thinly and enjoy the vibrant color that results.

3 to 4 pounds purple carrots (You can find these at farmers markets–or you can also use conventional carrots.)
1 cup white sugar
4 cups white distilled vinegar (or just enough to cover the sliced carrots)
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup whole cloves
1/8 cup black peppercorns
1/2 cup fresh tarragon

Peel and slice the carrots and place in a glass or metal bowl. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a saucepan. Heat until the sugar is dissolved. Pour over the carrots. Let cool, then cover and place in the refrigerator for two days, periodically stirring and tasting. At that point, they’re ready to use. They can be kept for  up to one month, covered, in the refrigerator.

Do you make pickles to serve clients when you’ve got a catering gig? Tell us your favorites!

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