Its is getting summery here at Putney Farm and when we cook for summer we start thinking about pickles. Really? Well, yes. Few ingredients get less attention that the lowly pickle, but few make such a difference in summer cooking. Bread and butter pickles on pulled pork and burgers? Check. Cool dill pickle spears? Check. Refrigerator pickles with your home-grown cucumbers? Check. Sweet gherkins or salty cornichons in the potato salad? Check. Home-made relish for your dogs? Check. We think you get the idea- the sourness, acidity and crunch of pickles compliment almost any rich dish.
We make our own refrigerator pickles every summer (recipe soon) and have a love affair (that is not too strong a description) with Horman’s Best Pickles in New York. Horman’s red flannel bread and butter pickle chips are one of the best foods in the world (and no, that is also not too strong a description). We are also enjoying Sonoma Brinery pickles locally. But when we need an instant “pickle fix”, we like to make a simple quick pickle from cucumbers and radishes. These pickles take all of 10-15 minutes to make and are great for a snack, condiment or side salad.
Now you may say “what’s the big deal” with a quick pickle. Well, we will tell you that some of the best chef’s in the world use pickles to add instant crunch and brightness to their cooking. As we often mention, the best recipes blend a range of flavors and textures, and pickles add acid, sweet, sour and crunch. A neat trick for so little work. It is not surprising that chefs like David Chang and Hugh Acheson use quick (and fermented) pickles in many of their award-winning dishes. And this recipe combines some of their techniques from Chang’s Momofuku Cookbook and Acheson’s A New Turn in the South.
To make the quick pickles thinly slice a cup of cucumbers (English or pickling are fine) and a cup of red or white radishes. Add some lemon juice, olive oil, salt and sugar. Stir and let sit for ten minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning, let it sit for another few minutes and then you’re done. You will see that liquid forms quickly in the bottom of the bowl, that is good stuff, keep it and stir it with the cucumber and radishes. You now have quick pickles. (Technically the lemon juice and olive oil may make this more of a “salad” than a pickle, but since the veggies marinate in salt and sugar- these are pickles to us).
So what can you do with quick pickles? The easiest thing to do is serve them as a healthy, but oh so tasty, snack while you are cooking. Our kids love them and so do our guests. We also serve the pickles along with pork barbecue as a side salad, the crunch and light acidity are a perfect foil for the richness of the pork. And finally, we add quick pickles to fish dishes, particularly those using butter sauces. We chop up the quick pickles and drizzle them over the fish to add color and texture but also to cut through the butter and add lemony notes. Yum.
Notes Before You Start:
- You can use pickling or English “hothouse” cucumbers for this dish.
- Any crisp white or red radish variety will work for this dish, as will daikon radishes.
What You Get: Tasty pickles in just a few minutes.
What You Need: No special equipment required.
How Long? 10-20 minutes with about 5 minutes of slicing the veggies. This is an anytime dish.
- 1 cup cucumber, thinly sliced (about 1/2 of an English cucumber)
- 1 cup radishes, thinly sliced (about 1 bunch of radishes)
- 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon of kosher or sea salt (or to taste)
- 1/2 teaspoon of sugar (or to taste)
- Thinly slice the cucumber and radishes and place the slices into a medium-sized bowl.
- Add the salt, sugar, lemon juice and olive oil. Stir to combine, let sit for ten minutes.
- After 10 minutes, taste and adjust seasoning. Stir, let sit for 2-3 minutes, and then serve.