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01.28.10 by  

Have Pickles, Will Party

After 4,000 years, pickled vegetables still got mojo. Dish this basic recipe, complete with your own improved ingredients, for a fresh take on finger food.

Replace your Corona lime with a party-pickle garnish.

Replace your Corona lime with a party-pickle garnish.

Pickles remind us of old people. We adore old people, but don’t necessarily think of them as hunters for hip new experience. We stand corrected.

Turns out that when prepped correctly, vinegar-brined vegetables can be just as edgy and unexpected today as they were back in Mesopotamia circa 2,000 BC. We had that lesson smacked down to us in Kiev, Tokyo and Kuala Lumpur, where the bon vivants nibble them as if they’re newly discovered.

So how do you bring back the sex appeal of 4,000-year-old technique anywhere outside of your local VFW? Think of it like wearing a vintage Dynasty dress or shrunken boy-band vest to an A-list club opening. You just gotta own it. Yes, people will be puzzled, but if you carry it off with confidence, they’ll be scouring the Internet for the same one the next day.

Our approach? Putting pickles center-stage on the app table at our last dinner party. The theory — that there’s a direct correlation between the more obscure and aspirational the appetizer tray and the chic factor of your soiree — turned out to be true. These small bites created as much buzz as the time we served Russian czar-inspired caviar bellinis.

For the pickles, we started with Bon Appetit’s recipe from the October 2009 issue (below) and added a slew of different vegetables, fruits and spices.

Seasonal Quick Pickles

  • 4 cups distilled white vinegar
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 12 whole fresh thyme sprigs
  • 6 small Turkish bay leaves
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled, halved
  • 2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole allspice
  • 1 large fresh rosemary sprig
  • 12 baby carrots, peeled
  • 10 radishes, trimmed, halved
  • 10 purple pearl onions, peeled
  • 1/4 pound haricot verts
  • 2 cups thickly sliced cauliflower florets
  • 1 large yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/2 inch-wide strips

  1. Combine first 4 ingredients in large bowl.
  2. Stir until sugar and salt dissolve.
  3. Add thyme, bay leaves, garlic, peppercorns, allspice, and rosemary, stir to blend.
  4. Combine all vegetables in another large bowl; toss gently to mix.
  5. Add vinegar mixture and stir to blend.
  6. Press plastic wrap directly onto surface and press vegetables to submerge.
  7. Chill at least 4 hours and up to 4 days (flavor will intensify with time).

We riffed by adding vegetables and spices to kick up our homemade versions a notch:

  • 1/2 inch-thick slices fresh fennel Ted beets, quartered (and yes, they turn everything else red, so are better pickled on their own)
  • Turnips, quartered
  • Ginger, sliced
  • Whole cloves star anise

Serve on their own as an app at parties, sidecar a pressed panini sandwich, slice and skewer on a cocktail pick to top your favorite savory cocktails. A spoonful of pickled vinegar can be stirred into a Bloody Mary to give it a bite.

Our next batch, we’re trying rutabaga and pickling fruits like plums and mango.