Entries in summer cooking (2)


quick pickles



I have made quick pickled cucumbers for years and have always done it the same way...I thinly slice some cucumbers (sometimes I also thinly slice a red onion) and sprinkle them with salt, sugar, and vinegar. Sometimes I add some fresh dill, sometimes mint. The cucumbers are softened and full of flavor within half an hour, and we eat the whole thing right away as a salad (photo below left).


Then, a month or so ago I was talking to my friend Rachel and she said she was making quick pickles with her son Caleb. We always compare recipes, and often share ideas for what to make for dinner, and this time was no different. It turns out, she was making a quick pickle recipe by Mark Bittman. I love his columns so I decided to look and see if I could find the pickle recipe online...curious to see what his favorite quick pickle is. 



I found the recipe here and discovered a whole new technique! To me, vinegar has always been a key ingredient, but Bittman does not use any vinegar at all in his recipe. Instead, he makes a salt water brine. I had to try them (photos above right and top) and I must agree that they are delicious. 


There are some differences between the two - I think that when I want a pickled cucumber salad as a side dish (for example, it goes really nicely with roasted salmon or grilled lamb) I will probably stick with my own method. But for a real pickle...a crunchier, really fresh tasting pickle, that can be kept in the refrigerator for about  a week, the Bittman pickles win. 


In the link you will also find another way to make quick pickles...one which does use vinegar, but like Bittman's version, are really pickles, as opposed to mine, which are more of a pickled cucumber salad. We made a jar or two of those as well...they were good, but not as crisp and fresh tasting as the ones without the vinegar.


To make my quick pickled cucumber salad use 2 cucumbers. I peel them, leaving strips of peel in tact, and remove the seeds. Slice thinly and place in a bowl. Add 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, 2 tablespoons sugar, and 4-5 tablespoons vinegar. You may choose the type: white wine vinegar, rice wine vinegar, or champagne vinegar all work well. Stir the cucumbers to combine. Add a heaping tablespoon of finely chopped fresh mint or dill and stir again. Set aside, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes before serving.



beets and beet greens


Roasted beets have been a longtime favorite summer dish but I am developing a love of beet greens as well. After trimming the roots from the stem I divide the stems into 2 parts: the stalks and the leaves. Cut the stalks into 2 or 3 inch long pieces and saute them in olive oil with a little chopped onion. Once they are soft, add coarsely chopped leaves. The leaves will shrink down as they wilt...pile as much as you can fit into the saute pan and turn the mixture with a pair of tongs, adding more uncooked leaves as you go. I like to add some raisins too. Soak the raisins in a mixture of a little hot water and a couple tablespoons of red wine vinegar while preparing the beets. Add this mixture to the stalks just before adding the leaves. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.



If you have not roasted beets before, I wrap them in foil drizzled with a little olive oil and roast in a 450° oven. The time will vary a lot based on the size of the beets -- it will take about 30 minutes for tiny beets and about an hour for larger ones. Be sure to make separate foil packets divided by size if your beets are in a wide range of sizes. To test for doneness just insert a paring knife into one of the beets - if it slips in easily they are done. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then using a paper towel wipe the beets to remove the skins. When roasted the skin will slide right off. 


p.s. I keep a box of powder free latex gloves in the house and they come in handy if you do not want stained fingers at dinner time.