I’ve loved pickles for as long as I can remember, and it must be hereditary, because I come from a long line of pickle aficionados, and my kids both have the gene as well. Growing up frequenting Jewish delis in Detroit, I came down firmly in the middle of the great “new dill vs. old dill” debate, and I also loved the pickled green tomatoes from the barrel. As an adult, I find that pickled vegetables and, yes, fruits, really add something to a salad or a sandwich, so I always have a jar or two of what I call “quickles” in the fridge. Unlike my fermenting jar full of dill pickles in waiting, these quick pickles come together speedily, and they are basically idiot-proof. Heat up the vinegar/spice mixture, pour it over the prepared veggies/fruit of choice, and put the lid on the jar. No canning process needed; no tongs, no thermometer. Just you, some fresh produce, and about 10 minutes of your time. And what a payoff! Use those pickled green beans or asparagus to garnish your Bloody Mary, or a pickled cherry in your Manhattan. Dress up your grilled cheese with pickled ramps or scallions and send it into the stratosphere. There’s no end to what you can dream up.
I like the mix of distilled white vinegar and apple cider vinegar in this recipe, which adds a touch of fruitiness. These onions have a delightful tang that works well as a foil for rich foods, like nachos, hot dogs, etc. A good basic quickle to have in your flavor arsenal!
Pack your cleaned and trimmed green beans into a quart-size Mason jar, heat the pickling liquid as directed, and pour right over the beans. Put on the lid, let cool to room temperature on the counter, and then refrigerate. These beans stay nice and crisp, with a good crunch and plenty of spice. A perfect foil to a juicy, fatty steak or roast chicken.
These beauties found their way into many different dishes last summer, including on a cheese platter (great with goat cheese), in a watermelon salad with feta cheese and cucumber, and simply tossed into a glass of Prosecco or club soda (along with a little of the pickling liquid). You might even try them tossed with fresh strawberries to add interest to the standard strawberry shortcake, or over ice cream.
Every spring, I buy every ramp (a wild onion that looks a little like a scallion, but with broader, flatter leaves that taper like a feather) that I can find. I pickle the bulbs and make pesto from the greens, and I don’t know that I am ever happier. Save this recipe for next spring, or cheat and substitute scallions, cut in half lengthwise. You won’t get that glorious pink-purple hue, but it will tide you over and whet your appetite for the real thing. I chop them up and toss with chopped cilantro and radishes and use it to top tacos, or stir into guacamole. Also great on eggs, in grain bowls, and more.
Quick pickles are an important flavor building block in Vietnamese cuisine, brightening every dish. What would a Banh Mì be without them? That vinegar bite, a little crunch, cutting through the richness of the roast pork. This is a family recipe from Diane, one half of the “White on Rice Couple,” and it was handed down from her maternal grandmother. Easy and oh-so-flavorful. Would be equally awesome tossed into sesame noodles, or strewn atop an egg- or tuna-salad sandwich.
This recipe, from the owner of Seattle-based Boat Street Pickles (one of my faves), is a keeper. Another strong contender for the cheese and charcuterie platter, these little gems make everything taste better, from the aforementioned Manhattan cocktail to a roast turkey sandwich with Brie on whole-grain toast. I love them tossed with slightly bitter mixed greens (arugula, specifically), goat cheese, Marcona almonds, and a sherry vinaigrette. Luscious.
I’m not a fan of “sweet” pickles, generally speaking, but this interpretation is better than most because you can cut down on the sugar. I’d recommend using only 1/2 cup of sugar, staying on the lower end of the suggested amount. These are great on a cheeseburger in homage to Au Cheval. They will take your barbecue up a notch, especially with the bonus of sliced pickled onions up in there.
The key here is to try to get the cauliflower florets a similar size, so that they will pickle evenly. The lemon adds an unexpected element; try adding a bit of turmeric as well for color. I like to toss this with roasted cauliflower and a lemony tahini dressing for a wonderful room temperature side dish that’s great with grilled meats.
Julie Chernoff, Make It Better’s dining editor since its inception in 2007, graduated from Yale University with a degree in English — which she speaks fluently — and added a professional chef’s degree from the California Culinary Academy. She has worked for Boz Scaggs, Rick Bayless and Wolfgang Puck (not all at the same time); and sits on the boards of Les Dames d’Escoffier International and Northlight Theatre. She and husband Josh are empty nesters since adult kids Adam and Leah have flown the coop. Rosie the Cockapoo relishes the extra attention.