In the world of summer barbecues, the pickle hardly plays a starring role.
Truth be told, "hold the pickles" is my standard order, as I am not a fan of pickles on a cheeseburger, nor do I particularly care for pickle juice leaking onto my sandwich bread at a deli.
But homemade quick pickles made from a variety of fresh veggies, not just cucumbers, are a different story. Quick pickles are made in minutes, not days, so the veggies stay crisper than store-bought versions. And since you control the ingredients, you can customize your pickles to make them as tart, sweet, sour, spicy or salty as you want.
Make one batch, and you'll immediately know how to adjust the flavors to your liking. You can make a variety of pickling flavors easily — add extra smashed garlic cloves and red pepper flakes to the green beans and bump up the vinegar to give cauliflower floret pickles extra pucker. You can even pickle fruit. Sliced lemon, pineapple chunks and halved cherry tomatoes all make tangy toppings for grilled meats and spicy dishes, for example.
The homemade pickle is a far more versatile actor than its commercially produced cousin. Try serving a variety of lightly pickled veggies with dip instead of the expected crudite.
Imagine a veritable minibuffet of brightly colored pickled veggies in mason jars set up next to the condiments at your next barbecue. Bring along a jar or two to someone else's party this summer as a healthy hostess gift.
Or, just keep a jar or two in your fridge for snacking. The basic recipe is easy enough to keep your fridge stocked, too. Just six simple pantry ingredients are needed: vegetable, vinegar, salt, sugar, garlic and an herb or spice. Which means homemade pickles can probably be on your menu tonight without even a trip to the store.