Saturday, September 17, 2011

The quick pickle

If you've ever watched Iron Chef America, you've probably heard one chef or another say, "I made a quick pickle of ..." whatever. Since it's done in less than an hour, it sure must be quick, right? It's not magic, though.

For a quick pickle to work, there is one major rule: the less time you have, the thinner your slices should be. It's also helpful to remember that dense vegetables - like carrots - will take longer to pickle than something less dense - like a zucchini.

It's perfectly fine if some of your vegetables are less pickled than others, but if you've got a whole bowl full of dense vegetables, you won't have the same effect.

When it comes to cucumbers, my favorite variety for almost everything is pickling cucumbers. My second choice is English cucumbers when the pickling variety are unavailable. The giant green waxed supermarket cucumbers are my last choice. Luckily, picking cucumbers are easy to find this time of year.

I specified a purple green pepper, but any color will work. I thought the purple added an interesting accent since the color was primarily in the skin - it made an pretty ribbon effect. Red bell peppers would be nice, as well. If you can’t find hakurei turnips, radishes would be a nice substitute.

Quick Pickled Vegetables

2 pickling cucumbers
2 small hakurei turnips
1 small zucchini
1/2 purple green pepper
1/2 medium onion
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup rice vinegar (or other mild vinegar)
Pinch of sugar
White pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon dill weed, chopped

Peel the cucumbers and turnips. Slice the cucumbers, turnips, zucchini, pepper, and onion thinly and place them in a medium bowl. Add the salt and stir. Let this sit for 10 minutes, then rinse and drain. This isn't about removing bitterness from the vegetables, like when this is done to eggplant. Instead, it's about making the vegetables more willing to soak in the vinegar in a short time.

Drain the vegetables well, then add the vinegar, sugar, pepper, and dill. Stir to combine and refrigerate until needed. Before serving, taste for seasoning and add more salt, pepper, or vinegar, if desired.

This makes a great side dish, or a topping for a sandwich or main dish.