by Kerri Conan
Or call them skillet pickles. Whatever: They’re the perfect antidote to full-on canning or refrigerator-cured vegetables, since there’s no work involved and you don’t need a bushel of produce.
Start with trimmed whole or sliced vegetables (in this case green beans but I later made a batch with beets) and a hot skillet filmed with olive oil. Add some aromatics (the first garlic from the garden for the first; the other got a mixture of sesame and grape seed oils with scallions). When the seasoning just starts to sputter, toss in the veg. Move them around in the pan a bit so the color brightens evenly, then stir in a splash each of water and vinegar (I used sherry v. for the beans and rice v. for the beets, but your call). If you’re worried about ratios, figure 1 part each of oil, water, vinegar. But you only need enough to douse the vegetables, not submerge them.
Bring the whole lot to a boil and cook until the vegetables are about two clicks less tender than you eventually want them. Remove the pan from the heat to cool. Empty everything into a jar and chill, shaking the contents often. Polish them off in a few days. When the vegetables are gone, use the brine as a base for salad dressing or drizzle as is over something else—like bruschetta or grilled chicken.
Not that I’m inventing anything new. This is, after all, little more than marinated vegetables or warm salad served cold. It’s actually a lot like, my mom’s pimento-stuffed-olive-heavy version of the classic Italian marinated vegetables known as giardiniera. Only with less liquid. She brings it to parties with a box of toothpicks. But when it’s around I eat it like salad breakfast, lunch, and dinner. (In fact I wish I was bobbing around in a bowl of it right now.)
You can find recipes for all different ways to make this brand of quick pickles both raw and cooked. Mom’s version involves briefly simmering the mixed vegetables—cauliflower, broccoli, onions, celery, carrots, bell pepper, and those olives (a nod to her New Orleans upbringing perhaps)—in what I can only describe as a vinaigrette brine. Lots of olive oil, oregano (if I remember correctly; Mom wasn’t around when I called to ask), and bay. You let the vegetables cool in the warm liquid and then pop them in the refrigerator for at least a day before eating.
If all this chat has inspired you to put by some real, long-lasting pickled vegetables for the fridge check out the excellent (now almost 10-year-old) book, Quick Pickles by Chris Schlesinger, John Willoughby, and Dan George. You’ll get all of the pleasure of pickles—done right—minus all of the hassle of canning. There’s even a whole chapter on vegetables cured in oil.