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ffwd: crunchy ginger-pickled cucumbers

Is it Friday? Is it Tuesday? Is it Sunday? With the midweek holiday, the flow of the week and the feel of each day have been confusing. I worked a normal week with Wednesday off for Independence Day. On Tuesday, it felt like Saturday. On Wednesday, I was sure it was Saturday, so it was odd to go back to work with a one day break, when I had a list in my mind of what to do on Sunday. Back to work yesterday, I just didn’t know what day it was. All in all, it was fun to have the break to celebrate one of my favorite holidays!

This week’s pick for French Fridays with Dorie sounded like a good picnic or cookout dish: Crunchy Ginger Pickled Cucumbers. They were super simple to put together. First, chunks of cucumber are salted and then sit for half an hour to draw out some of their moisture. Then, after draining, the cucumber marinates in a gingery vinegar bath for a few hours (mine went overnight), giving it a quick pickle. Flecks of dried red pepper (I used some Korean chile I had on hand), give them a little fire. Chopped cilantro dresses them up right before serving.

These quick pickles looked promising, but I found them disappointing. Though Howard said the ginger flavor was strong, I mostly tasted the vinegar. I used rice wine vinegar and added sugar to mimic seasoned rice vinegar. I typically find this type of vinegar to have a mild flavor, but, in this dish, it tasted harsh to me. I’m not sure why. I make a ginger cole slaw where the vinegar-to-sugar ratio is 1:1. I like that combination. I’m thinking maybe I had a mental expectation that the end result would be sweeter.

These pickles will get eaten, but I’m not sure I would make them again. Though, I could find a new idea about how to change it up from one of the other Doristas who also made the same recipe this week. I’ll be checking out their links here. If you want the recipe, you’ll find it in Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table.

Happy Friday!

In a Pickle

It’s nice to have a partner in the kitchen. Howard is a great helper, but, more important, he does a great job on his own when he’s the chef. He makes our breakfast every morning. It’s something simple during the week, usually just toast and fruit. On weekends, it’s more elaborate: eggs in many styles, pancakes, waffles.

As a trained scientist, Howard comes up with his own kitchen experiments. Some time, I’ll tell you about his sous vide setup (assembled from parts purchased on eBay). This week, he worked on perfecting Chinese pickles. These were inspired by a garnish on the entrees at Baumgart’s, a place we ate with Howard’s family in New Jersey. The garnish was pickled broccoli stems. They were tasty. Howard made similar pickles with the stems from our CSA broccoli plus carrots and daikon (also from the CSA share).

Here’s the formula:

Howard’s Sweet and Sour Chinese Pickles
Makes about 1 quart

3 to 4 cups crispy vegetables (such as broccoli stems, carrots, daikon, radishes, salad turnips), cut into penny-sized slices
2 tsp kosher salt
¾ cup rice wine vinegar
½ cup + 2 Tbsp sugar
1½ Tbsp shredded fresh ginger

Prepare the vegetables. For broccoli stems and daikon, peel, quarter lengthwise, then slice thinly. Carrots can be treated the same, but don’t need to be quartered. Radishes can just be sliced. Turnips probably need to be quartered, depending on the width.

Place the vegetables in a bowl and sprinkle with salt. Let it sit for 2 hours. Rinse off the salt and drain.

To make the brine, combine vinegar and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Add ginger.

Put the vegetables in a clear jar big enough to hold them. Pour the brine over the vegetables to cover. Store in the refrigerator. Wait overnight or longer before eating them.