Pickled veggies

Do you make pickles? If not, you’re missing out on an opportunity to add a terrific snap of flavor to the meals you prepare for clients. Most people who shy away from pickling do it because they’re intimidated by water bath processing. But pickling doesn’t always have to lead to water baths (which isn’t hard to do anyway)–and, with these three recipes, that step isn’t involved–although you could do it if you want. These types of pickles are basically meant to be eaten quickly and within a week.

Now why would you want to make them? First of all, they’re delicious snacks that you can enjoy out of hand. They’re also perfect on a charcuterie or cheese plate. In fact, any dish in which you are serving a fatty protein–pork, salmon, and lamb, pates, and rich cheeses immediately come to mind–can benefit from the acid a pickle provides. It’s that acid that satisfyingly cuts the richness of the fat.

I love a sprinkling of pickled onion in a carnitas taco. I’ve enjoyed them in Asian soups filled with pork or made from a pork stock. Shredded pickled carrots are delightfully crunchy in a salad or sandwich. Pickle pearl onions for cocktails. Consider the menus you plan–whether for weekly clients or catering gigs–and think about what dishes would benefit from a crunchy pickle.

I got the recipes below from my friend Pete Balistreri, who operates a chain of restaurants in San Diego called Tender Greens. Tender Greens is all about slow food done fast with local, seasonal, organic produce. In fact, I’ve been on the farm where they source most of their produce. Here, we used cucumbers, cauliflower, and onions–but you could select other vegetables to great effect. In fact, the cauliflower recipe was originally written for fennel. For the cucumber, you can substitute with Japanese or English cucumbers. For the onions, go for white, yellow, or red onions–or garlic or shallots, or a combination.

Pickled cucumbers

Asian-Style Pickles
from Pete Balistreri

Sliced cucumbers
Rice wine vinegar
Red peppercorns
Sugar

How easy is this. Just mix all the ingredients together. Refrigerate for an hour. Eat. Serve with fish (how about sashimi?) and a salad. Mix the liquid with olive oil and create a vinaigrette. Or heat the liquid and pour over tougher cucumber varieties like lemon cukes, wait till they cool, then eat. (Note: I make these all the time but use red pepper flakes instead of the whole peppercorns. I also add toasted sesame seeds when I’m ready to eat them. They’re my perfect quick and refreshing snack on a hot summer day.)

Pickled onions

Pickled Onions
from Pete Balistreri
Yield: 3 quarts

3 cups red wine vinegar
7 cups water
1 cup red wine (like a Pinot Noir)
1/2 cup sugar
1 bunch thyme
6 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
4 onions (white, yellow or red), julienned

Mix together all the ingredients but the onions in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Pour over the onions. Let cool, then refrigerate. Give them 24 hours to develop their color and then serve. Try these inside a beef taco or to top a salad.

 

Pickled cauliflower

Pickled Cauliflower
from Pete Balistreri
Yield: 2 quarts

3 cups champagne vinegar
8 cups water
1/2 cup sugar
1 bunch thyme
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 head cauliflower, florets separated

Mix all ingredients but the cauliflower in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Pour over the vegetables. Let cool, then refrigerate and wait 24 hours for the color to develop, then serve. You can save the liquid and reheat for another batch.

Do you make pickles for clients? If so, what are your favorites to make?

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