Thursday, June 27, 2013

pickled vegetable sandwich slaw

mustard seed-pickled sandwich slaw

If you’re one of those people who saw the word “pickled” in the title and said “Ugh, no, sorry, not for me,” do know, I was the same not too long ago and encourage you to fight the good fight for as long as you can, because once your tastes cross over to the vinegar side, there’s little going back.

fact: colorful things taste better

Something of a gateway pickle, these should be eyed suspiciously as well. The thing is, one day you’re eating the foods you’ve always liked — sandwiches, salads, tacos, cheese — and you wouldn’t change a single thing. And then, once day, the quadruple-threat crunch/sweet/salty/punch of a pickle gets under your skin and suddenly, the food landscape is a bleak, depressing place without them. You need pickled red onions on your tacos, pickled celery in your tuna and egg salads, cucumber slices in your potato salads, grapes with your sharp cheeses and pickled carrot sticks in the fridge whenever the mood strikes, and nothing’s ever quite right without them again. I can find a clear demarcation in my pre- and post-pickle junkie days (it’s just about 10 (!) years ago, when I took up with this Russian I married) and think there’s still hope for you. Here, how about some granita instead?

julienned radishes, maybe not recommended

yellow pepper ribbons
sugar snaps, slivered

But for those of you’ve whole already swan-dived into and flip-turned through the vinegar brine and would have it no other way, come, sit down next to me, because this is my new favorite summer pickle. The flavor and ingredient inspiration comes from the very first vinegar-soaked salad I fell for, something that Zabar’s sold under the name “health salad,” I believe because it was a cole slaw made with vinegar, instead of the dreaded mayo, which I would like to one day have as a band name. I bought it as often as I could afford to, which was not often enough back then, and so I finally did what I always do and figured out how to make it on my own. Except, it was always a little too chunky to work where I wanted it to, which was, everywhere.

radishes, peppers, cucumber, sugar snaps

The solution, inspired in appearance by these beauties, was a matter of sizing — thin strips and fine juliennes of the same vegetables made for a stunning tangle of color that was happy to twist like a pile of spaghetti anywhere that demands an instant pickle fix — heaped on pulled pork, aside anything that comes of a grill, against a sharp slice of cheese on a cold sandwich on a hot day, not that we have any of those lined up.

mustard seeds, vinegar, salt, sugar
shaved vegetable pickles

Heads Up, Google Readers! [A repeat announcement for the remainder of the month.] As someone has been using Google’s RSS reader from the day it launched in 2005, I’m definitely among those sad that it will be shutting down at the end of this month (i.e. just three more days). More than 250,000 of you subscribe to the site through Google Reader, and I think it would be a huge bummer if you missed out on everything I hope to share here this summer (popsicles! this sandwich slaw! mini-pies! ribs! picnic mega-sandwiches! grilled bacon!) because of it. What can you do? 1. Google makes it very easy to download your Reader data through Google Takeout and all alternative readers make it a cinch to upload this file to import your settings. 2. But why fuss? Two alternative readers I’ve been checking out since the announcement was made, Bloglovin‘ and Feedly (and I’d argue that no reader is working harder to adopt Google Reader dumpees than Feedly!) make it even easier, letting you skip this step entirely by prompting you to ask if it can import your Google Reader feeds the moment you set up an account. Both are so gorgeous and intuitive to use, you won’t be missing your retired Reader for a minute.

One year ago: Triple Berry Summer Buttermilk Bundt
Two years ago: Blueberry Yogurt Multigrain Pancakes
Three years ago: Bread and Butter Pickles, Blue Cheese and Red Potato Tart and Strawberry and Rhubarb Pie, Improved
Four years ago: Cheese Straws, Strawberries and Dumplings and Horseradish Potato Salad
Five years ago: Sweet Cherry Pie and Project Wedding Cake
Six years ago: Dilled Potato and Pickled Cucumber Salad (still my husband’s favorite potato salad of all time), Lemon Risotto and Strawberry Chiffon Shortcake

Pickled Vegetable Sandwich Slaw with Mustard Seeds
A new riff on my favorite pickled cole slaw, inspired by these pretties

I used a mixture of radishes, red, orange and yellow bell peppers, carrots, fresh sugar snaps and kirby cucumbers, but you can use any firm, crunchy vegetable you think would pickle well here. The only thing I don’t think I’d use again were the red radishes, because their color leaked all over, pink-pickling the other vegetables, though of course they all tasted just fine. You might note I am missing the most important ingredient in this so-called slaw, the cabbage. Guys, I made this in the chaotic two days before our two-week vacation and completely forgot. Turns out, it’s fantastic with or without cabbage, though feel free to add some green/white cabbage to your 4 cups of vegetables.

These are refrigerator pickles; no canning/vacuum seals/sterilized jars needed. You simply keep them in the fridge, where they will last for up to a month.

[Update 7/1/13: A few people were finding 3 tablespoons salt too salty. I looked over my other pickling formulas and think this could stand to be a little less salty and have updated the amount. Because the salt and sugar work together, the sugar is reduced from 6 tablespoons too. So sorry for any pickling unhappiness.]

Pickling mixture
1 cup distilled white vinegar
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons Kosher salt
2 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
1 cup cold water

Slaw mixture
4 to 5 cups mixed slivered or julienned* firm, raw vegetables (see above for vegetable suggestions, below for slicing tips)
Optional: Few slivers of jalapeno

Heat vinegar, sugar, salt and mustard seeds to a simmer in a small, non-reactive pot over moderate heat, stirring only until sugar and salt dissolve. Stir in water, which should bring the mixture’s temperature down significantly. Let cool to lukewarm.

Divide vegetables between jars. (I used two 3/4 liter jars.) Pour vinegar mixture over vegetables and refrigerate until needed. You’ll find the vegetables to be lightly pickled within an hour, and deliciously pickled within a day. They will get slightly more pickled as they sit, but the change shouldn’t be too dramatic from the 24 hour level.

Eat with/on sandwiches, aside grilled food and pack it along for picnics — it goes with almost anything. Then make more, because this stuff is habit-forming.

Do ahead: Mine have kept in the fridge for a month without any change in taste or appearance. Updated to add (thanks, Erika!) that you’ll want to make sure that your vegetables are submerged in the brine for them to keep this long.

* I used a mix of a sharp knife, a simple mandoline (that includes julienne blades) and a julienne peeler (the Kuhn one), which I was embarrassed to admit I bought last year until I realized how much easier it makes getting juliennes from long, thin vegetables (carrots, cucumbers, parsnips and zucchini). Don’t fret if you don’t have a fancy peeler or mandoline; you can cut thin strips with your knife, then slice them into skinny matchsticks quite easily.


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