As I say often, food is a lot like fashion with trends moving in and out of favor. Pickling vegetables seems to be all the rage right now. It is simply food that has been preserved in a seasoned brine or vinegar mixture. You can pickle just about anything but vegetables such as cucumber, onions, cauliflower, carrots and watermelon rind are very popular choices. The current trend seems to be quick pickles as opposed to those longer cured cukes your mom or grandmother used to make. I think the rising popularity of Asian cuisines has contributed to this current fascination. The Vietnamese Bahn Mi sandwich with its crunchy brined vegetables as well as the Korean staple kimchi are examples of pickling that dates back centuries. It was originally used as a method for preserving vegetables and meats before refrigeration.
Recently, I was dining with friends at one of my favorite restaurants. We all ordered salads and each choice came topped with these mouth-watering pickled onions. We all remarked about the mild yet pungent flavor and how it served as such an enhancement to the greens which were tender, fresh and lightly dressed. After my friend mercilessly flirted with the waiter (he was adorable and had an Australian accent after all), he coughed up his thoughts on what ingredients were used to make them. I quickly wrote them down and went home determined to replicate the recipe. Here is what I came up with.
2 medium red onions
1 c water
1 c red wine vinegar
1/2 c sugar ( I used a scant amount but if you like things sweeter, you can use more)
2 T kosher salt
1 T whole black peppercorns
2 T Pernot (French liquor, licorice flavor)
1 1/2 whole star anise
- Peel whole onions and slice them thin (I used a Japanese mandoline slicer but you could use a knife).
- Place onion rings in a quart jar.
- Mix remaining ingredients, stirring until sugar and salt dissolve. Taste and adjust sugar and salt to taste.
- Pour liquid mixture over the onions. Seal jar and shake to distribute evenly.
- Refrigerate and allow to marinate, shaking the jar occasionally.
- Allow to set for a few hours or up to several days until the onions are flavorful yet still crunchy.
I used these in a raw asparagus salad (I will be posting that recipe next, so look for it; really good) in place of raw onion and they were fabulous. They would be a wonderful condiment for a burger, hot dog, sausages or just about any sandwich. I am envisioning a panini with some strong cheese like Asiago topped with these beauties and maybe some sautéed mushrooms. Yum! I also think they would be a great compliment to soups as a garnish, potato leek , for example. How about extra pizzaz for that lentil dish you make or potato salad? My imagination is running wild so I will stop there and allow you to unleash your creative spirit.
You could use this same pickling mixture for other vegetables as well. So lets hear what you did with it. Love your comments!