Indian Pickled Vegetable Salad
There are innumerable pickling directions you can go, most regions of the world had either a fermentation process or made fermented liquids (like vinegar) to quick pickle and lightly preserve. I’ve been reading about Korean versions of pickled veggies and getting excited to try them, but for the Seed Savers Conference Dinner I wanted an Indian direction to the seasonings since it would be servedwith Smoked Lamb, Chickpea Masala, and Pilau.
The most surprising addition idea to me was Fennel seed—it adds so much to a quick pickle and takes it in a refreshing direction. Turmeric gives great color, and the other spices add even more dimension. The quick-pickling brine was so flavorful and colorful that I used it as part of the rice cooking liquid for the Pilau.
Measuring. I struggle greatly with this practice.
In the early years of running the Deli when it was small, life was free and was easy because I could make whatever I wanted for the day or the week. I would be inspired from the various muses I encountered and would let the ideas incubate, then create what wanted to be created. As the business grew I needed people to help, and lo, these people wanted recipes! This was a foreign concept to me and I begrudgingly admitted that consistency of product and recipes were needed. In the following months I forced myself to halt the free flow of ideas and to first measure each and every single little item going into the pot, then pick up the pen to scribble down what had just occurred. Then tasted. Then added. Then tasted. Then pondered. Then adjusted. Then repeated.
Creativity is not the same when you have to stop and think, but I have come to appreciate attempting to harness the creative action in order to convey in a language that others may understand. I still think it’s difficult to create exactly the same dish twice relying only on a recipe because ingredient consistencies may change depending on the climate, the weather year, the location grown, the variety, etc…. but I now agree that some structure is a good thing. My apologies for those of you who worked for me before I figured this out.
The watery veggies of the melon family (i.e. cucumbers, zucchini) need to be salt-brined beforehand so they keep their shape. This brining helps remove some of the water from these fruits—otherwise they will become a pile of mush within a day. Dense veggies and brassicas (carrots, cauliflower, etc) should be blanched ahead.
These were quick-pickled two days before the Seed Savers event, and with such a large quantity and figuring it out as I went along I didn’t bother to measure. So here I am with the memory of a great idea trying to recreate it with guidance for you, my readers. One could use many combinations of vegetables, these are what I had access to locally at that time. I could imagine also using yellow beets, broccoli, grapes, kohlrabi, winter squash, onions, turnips, and other fall edibles.
Indian Pickled Vegetable Salad
Prep Time: 1 hour + 2 days (one day to brine cucumbers and one day to marinate)
Brine the watery vegetables one day ahead of the quick-pickling process.
Slice into your preferred shape:
3 cups cucumbers, summer squash and/or zucchini
Stir to dissolve the salt then add the cucumbers/zucchinis:
2-3 teaspoons Sea Salt
Water—enough to cover the cucumbers/zucchini
Refrigerate in the saltwater 10-14 hours, then drain.
Prep the other veggies. Lightly blanch then cool:
1 cup Carrots, diced
3 cups Cauliflower, cut into small florets
Blanch in boiling water 30-60 seconds, then remove from the water and rinse in cold water. If you are using anything frozen (corn, beans) they do not need to be blanched.
Heat in a non-reactive pot:
1 1/2 – 2 Tablespoons Fennel Seed
1 teaspoon Coriander Seed
1 teaspoon Cumin Seed
Toast for a few minutes, then add:
4 cups Water
1 3/4 cups Vinegar, white or cider
1 Tablespoon + 2 teaspoons Sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon Turmeric, ground
3/4 teaspoon Ginger, ground
1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt
Stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved then remove from heat.
Mix together in a bowl:
The Brined Vegetables, drained
The Blanched Vegetables, drained
Transfer to a large jar or non-reactive container and pour the Vinegar Liquid over the veggies.
Taste and Adjust. It may need more sugar, cider vinegar, or salt depending on your tastes preferences.
Store refrigerated in a non-reactive container for at least 8 hours. Stir occasionally so the dressing soaks into all the vegetables.
“I like living.
I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.”