First, I recently read something on a Cooks' Illustrated message board about someone who wanted a good recipe for "fire and ice pickles." The name intrigued me, so I did some Googling and have determined that they are sort of like a spicy version of a bread-and-butter pickle for those who don't want to go to the trouble of pickles from scratch. Many people also like to make these for quick, inexpensive holiday gifts, as each batch makes three pints. You could keep one for yourself and give two away to other pickle-loving friends.
Fire and Ice Pickles
(Source: adapted from Taste of Home)
2 jars (32 ounces each) dill pickle slices or spears (or buy whole pickles and slice them on a mandoline as I did--I like Mt. Olive)
4 cups granulated sugar (I don't care for sweet pickles, so I cut this by half=2 cups)
1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce (um...I used FOUR, so let's say "to taste")
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (again, to taste--as little as 1/4 t. up to a full teaspoon for the intrepid heat-seekers among you)
3 garlic cloves, peeled (I doubled the garlic, as is my way=6 cloves)
*I also added one large Vidalia onion, thinly sliced
Drain and discard juice from pickles. In a large bowl, combine pickles, sugar, pepper sauce and pepper flakes (and onions, is using); mix well. Cover and let stand 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Spoon pickles and liquid into 3 pint-size jars; add a garlic clove (or two!) to each jar. Cover and refrigerate one week before serving. Store in the refrigerator. Yield: 3 pints.
Secondly, I was reading another lovely little blog that I've discovered lately called Tea & Cookies, and the author was waxing rhapsodic about banh mi (Vietnamese sandwiches) and the do chua or "pickled stuff" with which they are garnished. I had to go to three different stores in Plattsburgh to find daikon, but I finally did (Hannaford, of course), and I whipped up a batch of the simple do chua pickled relish. The following evening, I made a quick meal of something I might call Banh Mi Wraps. Instead of the crusty baguette-type bread that is traditional for banh mi, I spread a sandwich wrap with a basil, cilantro and jalapeno mayo (just mix enough chopped, fresh herbs and nacho slices into the mayonnaise to suit you), a couple of thin slices of hot ham, some leftover roast pork that I sprinkled with soy sauce, lots of the do chua, and if I had had some, I would have added thin cucumber slices. Yum!
Do Chua (Vietnamese "Pickled Stuff") (Source: adapted from Tea & Cookies)
2 cups each, raw carrot and daikon radish, peeled and cut on a mandoline or in a food processor—or julienned by hand if you are really hardcore (don’t use a box grater, they will be too mushy)
1/2 cup distilled (white) vinegar (I used half rice wine vinegar)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Toss all ingredients and let sit a while before eating (30 minutes to one hour). The vegetables will express some juice as they sit. Pack the vegetables in this brine/juice to store in the fridge. Lasts at least a week.
*For a simple salad idea, Tea recommends combining 1 1/2 cups of the prepared do chua with 1/2 to 3/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, plus some thinly-sliced red peppers and/or onions. Besides being a fresh, crunchy side dish, I believe this would make a delicious garnish on top of grilled fish or chicken. (I'll have to try it and report back.)
With these two simple and delicious quick recipes, I bid you adieu so that you can get to pickling, and I can go back to pickling myself* here in the Crescent City! ;-) Laissez les bons temps rouler (at least until tomorrow)!
*For my tee-totalling friends who may begin praying for my deliverance from alcoholism, DO NOT BE ALARMED! New Orleans, despite its best efforts, has yet to turn me into a lush. Nor have I had to flash my goodies for flashy beads in the French Quarter, so looking for such a video on YouTube starring me will be fruitless. Then again, I have one more night to go! Hmm...