With the weather warming up, we're enjoying fresh, cool foods more often. We're even growing our own lettuces for the first time, a mesclun mixture, which has been really interesting. They're not quite mature yet but we've been eating a little here and there and it's delicious. Summer is hot here, so eating is all about keeping cool - lots of salads, sandwiches, fresh fruits and veggies all day long. I really love summer eating.
With summer eating in mind, I've been trying some quick-pickled vegetable recipes lately. I've made quick cucumber pickles for years, throwing in onions, garlic, herbs or whatever else I have handy. I hadn't tried any other veggies yet, though, and decided to try pickling carrots recently when I had an enormous bag of them I needed to use up. Quick pickles are easy to make; there is little to no cooking involved, no fermenting and no canning. They don't last long, but they're crisp, cool and highly flavored, and very nice to have on hand for a quick accompaniment to any meal.
The pickled carrots were absolutely wonderful and I felt inspired to make up some sweet-and-sour cucumber pickles too, using a recipe from Sunset. The carrot recipe comes from there too; both are included in a series of quick-pickle recipes I tore out of the magazine and saved years ago, planning to try them eventually. I don't know what I was waiting for! The two I tried are delicious and I will definitely try the others. The recipes are presented in a sort of "mix-and-match" format, encouraging you to try different combinations of ingredients to develop your own "house" pickles. I did a bit of improvisation with mine and I think they worked well. It's hard to go wrong with fresh veggies, vinegar and spices. Both kinds of pickles floated my boat just fine, and there's no stopping me now - I'm already thinking about more pickles, like green beans, jicama and peppers.
Both recipes adapted from "Pickle It Quick," in the July 2011 issue of Sunset, to fit a quart-size Mason jar.
Sweet and sour cucumber and red onion pickles
2 large cucumbers
1/4 medium red onion
5 stalks fresh dill
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. mustard seeds
3/4 cup white wine vinegar
Slice cucumbers and onion very thinly on a mandoline or with a knife; rinse onion and drain. Put both into clean jar, layering with dill stalks.
Whisk sugar, salt, mustard seeds and vinegar together in a bowl. Pour over cucumber mixture and chill at least 1 hour. Serve cold. Keeps, chilled, up to 1 day.
Mustard and ginger pickled carrots
5 to 6 medium carrots
1 cup distilled white vinegar
1 tbsp. + 1 1/2 tsp. sugar
1 tbsp. + 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
3 thin slices fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced lengthwise
1 tbsp. + 1 1/2 tsp. mustard seeds
1/8 tsp. red chile flakes
Peel carrots and cut into 1/2 inch sticks.
Bring 1 1/2 cups water and all ingredients except carrots to a boil in a large saucepan. Reduce heat to low and simmer 1 minute. Add carrots and simmer until almost tender, 2 to 3 minutes.
Transfer carrots and liquid to jar and let cool to room temperature. Chill, covered, overnight to let flavors develop. Serve cold. Keeps, chilled, up to 1 week.