Quick-Pickled Charred Vegetables
8 or more servings
45 to 50 minutes, plus several hours pickling time
I’m finicky about my pickles, and declare this technique nothing short of amazing. The only trick is to avoid vegetables that soften quickly, like summer squash, because they need to char but retain some crunch for the brining step. Some specifics: Cut broccoli and cauliflower into florets. Firm vegetables—like fennel, kohlrabi, daikon, onion, and jícama—should be grilled in 1⁄2-inch-thick slices, then cut into sticks. Cook whole green beans and okra (a real treat), but grill radishes whole or cut in half, depending on their size. Cucumbers hold up remarkably well on the grill; cut them into spears. And don’t forget their cousins, melons. Carrots should be left whole, halved, or quartered so the pieces are no thicker than your pinky.
1 1⁄2 cups distilled white vinegar or cider vinegar
1⁄2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seed
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 pounds vegetables of your choice
1. Make the brine: Put the vinegar, sugar, salt, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, peppercorns, and bay leaves in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and add the garlic. When it cools, pour it into a large, nonreactive metal or glass bowl.
2. Start the coals or heat a gas grill for medium-high direct cooking. Make sure the grates are clean.
3. Prep the vegetables as described above. Put the vegetables on the grill directly over the fire. (For smaller pieces, use a perforated grill pan, or skewer them to make them easier to handle.) Close the lid and cook the vegetables, turning them as necessary, until they brown deeply on all sides without softening; how long this takes will depend on the vegetable and how hot the fire is, but figure between 5 and 15 minutes total for most vegetables. Stay close to the grill, check them early and often, and move them to cooler parts of the grill to control the coloring.
4. As they finish, transfer them to the bowl with the brine. When all are done, toss the vegetables with the brine to coat. Cover the bowl and refrigerate, tossing the vegetables every 30 minutes so, until the flavor and texture fully develop, at least 3 hours. Serve right away, or keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Quick-Pickled Charred Vegetables with Chile, Lime, and Star Anise: Perfect with Vietnamese noodles, soups, and salads: For the brine, use 11⁄2 cups rice vinegar, 1⁄2 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, and 5 pods star anise. After the liquid simmers, add the grated zest of 1 lime and 1 sliced jalapeño or Thai bird chile (remove the seeds for less heat).
Sweeter Quick-Pickled Charred Vegetables with Ginger: Akin to sweet-and-sour Chinese and Korean pickles: For the brine, use 1 cup each rice vinegar and sugar, 1⁄2 cup water, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1⁄3 cup thinly sliced or julienne fresh ginger. After the sugar dissolves in Step 1, let the brine bubble gently for another 15 minutes to develop the ginger flavor.
Spicy Dilly Pickled Vegetables: Terri c made with green beans or okra: In Step 1, substitute 1 tablespoon dill seeds and 2 teaspoons red chile flakes for the mustard and coriander seeds. After adding the vegetables, toss in several fresh dill sprigs if you like.