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First, a random thing, my book review for “The Mindful Carnivore~A Vegetarian’s Hunt for Sustenance” by Tovar Cerulli was published/posted today in/by the Post Gazette. So far no hate mail from angry vegans. Win!

To relate being a “mindful carnivore” to the “sustenance” of a vegetarian … it honestly didn’t make much sense to me, but it did make me curious.

I am a chef by trade, and therefore suspicious of vegetarians by nature. Yes, I know it’s healthy and completely normal; I know many happy people who lead productive, normal lives as vegetarians. But to eliminate meat completely is not an idea I can get behind. (And veganism? Perish the thought! No cheese? I can’t even really think about it.)

Back to business :) Do you feel that shift? It’s been ridiculously quick in coming this week because of our unseasonably warm temperatures and abundance of sunshine, which, HUGE thank you to whomever ordered this gorgeousness! The little chef who lives in my brain has been busy furiously and happily putting up the braising pans, restocking the pantry & opening the windows, her mind turning to fresh, bright spring.

I live in Pittsburgh for a number of reasons, but high on that list – we get the very best and the very worst of all 4 seasons; I will tell you at the beginning of each season the one we are rolling into is my very favorite. Well it is! Or they all are? Spring is totally my favorite…until the tomates start to ripen in the summer, anyway.

Quick pickling vegetables is a pretty neat little thing to know how to do. It is really simple to throw together, works well as a side/salad or as a condiment, is a sweet/tart crunchy explosion in your mouth and works with so many vegetables. I made this one with a whole English cucumber, red onion & red bell pepper – that was what I had in my fridge and I wanted a crunchy tart side salad-y kind of thing. This is also a great method with beets, carrots, jicama, celery, shallot, fennel, endive, any kind of onion or pepper, radishes…and those are just off the top of my head. Basically it just has to be able to 1) stand up to being warmed slightly then cooled – so a tomato, for example, may not be an ideal candidate and 2)  able to absorb flavor. It also will hold up pretty well in the fridge – it is really good on a good sandwich with crusty bread, tossed with a salad – anywhere you want to add some tart crunchy awesome.

I add a little bit of hearty fresh herb to my quick pickles, tossing thyme or rosemary, generally, into the pickling liquid while it heats. It adds a marked freshness in the end product that I like. It isn’t necessary, but when is more flavor, particularly rosemary or thyme, a bad thing? Dill is also a solid option if you have dill, I don’t particularly dig it so I rarely have it on hand. It is good though, obviously – dill pickles and whatnot…

Most important component of a quick pickle is the vinegar. These are the vinegars I most commonly. The distilled white vinegar is not something I usually cook with, I use it to clean my espresso machine and windows & put it in Easter Egg dye.

  • Apple Cider Vinegar this one is my regular. Neutral in color, has a little freshness from the cider I dig. Blends well with other vinegars and herbs.
  • Red Wine Vinegar its primary disadvantage is its red. I only use if the color is the point or irrelevant in the end product. Good flavor base, pairs well with herbs.
  • Rice Wine Vinegar asian vinegar, sweet and tart. The sweetness it adds can be cloying when pickling sweeter things, I almost always blend it with either cider or red wine vinegar to keep the sweet more balanced unless sweet is the point. When I use rice wine vinegar I drop the sugar by a couple tablespoons.

Cucumber & Red Onion Quick Pickle this recipe makes about 2-3 cups total after it has been marinaded. The raw vegetables were around 4-6 cups total ~ feel free to substitute the vegetables of your choice. This particular version is delicious by itself, with some greens or as a topper on a sandwich.

  • 1.5 cups Vinegar – discussed above
  • 3/4 cup Sugar
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • couple grinds Fresh Ground Black Pepper
  • 2-3 springs Rosemary

Place in a pot over medium heat to a simmer to dissolve the sugar. Turn off and let cool while you chop vegetables.

  • 1 whole English Cucumber, sliced in half length-wise then bias sliced 1/4″ thick.

  • Julienne half of a red onion and finely dice half of a red pepper. Place all the vegetables in a bowl.

  • The vinegar mixture should cool to the point you can comfortably touch it. Strain it over the vegetables, mix it all up, eat!

Such bright flavors that add some crunch and vibrance to so many things – think cold, sliced spiced pork tenderloin with whole grain mustard and pickled vegetables on a crusty bageutte or grilled chicken, avocado, baby spinach and pickled onions. Quick pickled roasted beets w goat cheese…

Go! Pickle stuff!