A couple of weeks ago I was invited to a beer-pairing dinner party at the home of my friend Jonathan. According to the intriguing invitation, each incredible-sounding course would be accompanied by an unusual and exotic beer, to be brought by the guests, who would receive their carefully-researched beverage assignment at some point before the party. I replied with an enthusiastic affirmative and eagerly awaited word of my mission. This turned out to be Schneider Aventinus Weizen-Eisbock, intended to be paired with the all-goat cheese course. The "big, fruity" German brew was a tremendous hit, and I felt inappropriately proud of myself for bringing it.
Jonathan's autumn vegetable soup, lamb tagine, couscous, sweet and sour cabbage, and chocolate olive oil cake were all beyond divine. The accompanying beers included Trumer Pils, Pliny The Elder double IPA from Mendocino Brewing, Rogue Chocolate Stout, Jolly Pumpkin La Roja barrel-aged American Wild Ale, and an unnamed homebrewed Maybach made by one of the guests. But for me, the unsung hero of the night was an unassuming side dish of pickled vegetables—so enticing, so colorful, so beautifully served in small glass pickling jars that I couldn't take my eyes off of them. I fantasized about the briney, peppery, turmeric-hued melange during the days that followed, and as Jonathan was kind enough to send us the night's recipes, I've been able to make it myself a couple of times since. Although these pickled veggies can be made using the traditional time-consuming canning process, I prefer to avoid all that extra work and simply make "refrigerator pickles" (as described below). They don't keep as long, but are just as delicious. By the way, this particular recipe doesn't call for blanching the veggies, which simplifies the process even further. The resulting slight extra crunch is perfectly delightful.
You can serve this dish as a salad substitute, like Jonathan did, along with a rich meaty entree—or as part of an appetizer plate with olives, hummous, and cheese. It also makes a delicious and portable accompaniment to a sandwich lunch. No matter how you serve it, a dish that can be made days in advance of consumption always scores huge bonus points with Lazy Gourmets!
- 2 cups cider vinegar
- 1 cup water
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- ½ cup sugar
- 3 medium cloves garlic, lightly crushed and peeled
- 3 ¼-inch-thick slices peeled fresh ginger
- ½ small yellow onion, thinly sliced
- ½ head cauliflower, cut up (about ¾ pound of florets)
- 5 medium carrots (about ¾ pound), peeled and chopped to bite-sizes pieces
- small red bell pepper, cut into large dice
- In a non-reactive saucepan over medium heat, bring the vinegar, water, mustard seeds, peppercorns, cumin, turmeric, red pepper, salt, sugar, garlic, ginger, and onion to a boil.
- Place the cauliflower, carrots, and bell pepper in a heat-resistant container that can be closed tightly with a lid. Pour the hot brine over the vegetables.
- Let cool to room temperature and then cover and refrigerate for at least 2 and up to 14 days. (Give the veggies a couple of stirs during the first few hours, to help them settle and pack together and get better brine coverage.)