Tag Archives: Pickled

Scrambled egg banh mi

This sandwich was SO HARD to photograph. It just did not want to behave. I’ve been making a version of this sandwich once or twice a week for the past month, and they’ve all been docile and well-constructed and probably totally photogenic. Then I finally got around to charging my camera battery and made myself a sandwich specifically to photograph. This one decided to fall apart every time I put it down.

Once again, I beg you to ignore the photo. Because this right here? Is one phenomenal sandwich. I first had it at a sandwich shop near where I used to work, and fell in love. After almost a year of craving it since leaving that job, I finally managed to recreate it at home. It’s got the sunny chewiness of scrambled egg, which I like so much better than the pork you usually find in a banh mi. On top of the egg, add lots of utterly compelling things: pickled carrot and daikon, cucumber sticks, jalapeno slices, cilantro leaves, and lots of spicy mayo. It’s hot and cold, sweet and sour, crunchy and chewy, spicy and rich–everything there is to love about banh mi.

I call this a “scrambled egg” sandwich, but what really fills its belly is a simple flat omelet. At the sandwich stand, they’d steam the eggs in a special container in the microwave, creating a eggy half-moon. To replicate that effect, I beat the eggs and add them to a lightly oiled skillet over medium-low heat. Then I let them cook, completely undisturbed, until they’ve set into a springy, slightly puffed disc. (This usually takes about 15 minutes on my stove, which leaves plenty of time to leisurely prep the other sandwich ingredients.) Slide the disc out of the skillet, cut it in half, et voila–two eggy half-moons, ready to slide between halves of bread.

So much for the egg. There’s one other bit of advance prep needed for this sandwich: pickling some carrots and daikon. I made up a quart of refrigerator pickles, following a recipe from the New York Times, and have it handy in the fridge for whenever the banh mi craving strikes. You could also make a batch of fifteen-minute quick pickles, which will be ready in about the time it takes the eggs to cook. Either way, you’ve got the makings of one satisfying lunch.

egg banh mi 1

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Pickled daikon radish

One of the things I love about my boyfriend is our shared, almost fanatical love of certain foods. I’m pretty sure that about 23% of our relationship is based on radishes, and another 37% is based on pickles. We both love snacking on radishes–the spicier, the better–and we both unapologetically eat pickles of all kinds straight from the jar. So it’s no surprise that pickled radishes are one of our mutual favorite foods.

I love eating pink radishes raw, but when it comes to pickling, I’m a sucker for daikon. Daikon radishes are larger and denser than their bunchy cousins, with a mild but distinct radish flavor. Pickled with lots of sugar, they make a delightfully crunchy sweet-and-sour snack. I’ve had pickled daikon radish all over the place, tucked into sushi rolls or onigiri boxes, but not until recently did it occur to me to try pickling my own. One taste, and Sam shouted “OH YEAH THIS IS GREAT” and immediately took possession of the jar.

These are straightforward refrigerator pickles, easy to make and easy to eat. The radish flavor starts out mellow, but intensifies as the pickles sit in the brine, so that every nibble is sugary, spicy, and sour all at once. I added a bit of ginger, to warm things up a bit, but it honestly wasn’t necessary–the simple, uncluttered flavors of radish, sugar, and vinegar are lovely enough. I’ve seen a lot of pickled radishes that are dyed a garish shade of yellow, so I decided to mimic that by adding a bit of turmeric to the brine. It’s also a personal preference thing, but I cut my radish into matchsticks instead of chunks or half-moons, so that I could fish them upright out of the jar and snack on them like carrot sticks. (Cutting them this way also makes them ideal for rolling into sushi. But that’s another post for another day.)

I do want to offer a couple words of caution. First, the brine for these pickles is very sticky, and it will stain things. I would recommend using a glass measuring cup or a ladle to get the brine into the jars, and possibly doing it over the sink if you’re really klutzy, like me. Second, daikon radish is one of those vegetables that produces a lot of sulfurous compounds as it pickles. In other words, this stuff smells. Strongly. It’s not really evident until you open the jar, so keep your radishes tightly sealed in the fridge and you shouldn’t have any problems.

pickled daikon

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Carrot miso soup with quick-pickled scallions

I love how I can know someone for years and years and years and still learn new things about them. For example.

My friend Marissa and I have known each other for the better part of a decade–almost our entire adult lives. She’s one of the first friends I made in college. We spent inordinate amounts of time together, in dorms and in common rooms, on grassy lawns and on airplanes, in classroom seats and in theater seats. I’ve shared a bed with her. She’s worn my clothes. I can tell you exactly how she’ll react to a piece of news, or who her celebrity crushes are, or what her sister’s ex-boyfriend’s name is. But not until she came to visit me from Florida last month did I learn how much she loves carrots.

It started when Audrey and I took her out for Thai food. We ordered some gorgeous elaborate stir-fry, speckled with vegetables, and the first thing Marissa did was to pick every single carrot off the serving dish and claim them for herself. She was genuinely more excited about those carrots than about anything else we’d done that day. “Omigosh, you guys, I LOVE carrots,” she gushed between mouthfuls. It took me aback. I could feel a small pang of offense–how hadn’t she told me this before? It seemed like such a fundamental character trait. Well, maybe not so fundamental. But certainly news to me.

So a couple days later, on a cold and blustery evening, when the train to my neighborhood got shut down and Marissa was stranded at a distant station wearing shorts and a thin sweater, shivering and sad by the time I picked her up, I knew I needed to make her something warm and carroty to bring her back to her sunny self. I’d had a carrot miso soup recipe bookmarked for months, and with a carrot-loving houseguest and a half-finished tub of miso in the fridge, I knew the time had come. This is a beautifully simple recipe, for a soup that’s smooth and lush and gloriously comforting. For me, it hit the same autumn spot as squash soup, with a similar pulpy orange sweetness; but it’s brighter and less sugary than squash, with a deep salty thrum from the miso.

The soup itself is clean, simple, and cheerfully sweet. I felt it needed a little bite and a touch of richness to even it out. So, going off of a parenthetical note on the original recipe, I quickly pickled some scallions in rice vinegar, then swirled them into the soup. A drizzle of dark fatty sesame oil, and we had a lovely windy-night meal.

And now I’m wondering what else she hasn’t told me…

carrot miso soup

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Chard avocado salad and pickled chard stems

I’ve always thought of chard as a winter food, but that’s not strictly true. Even now, in the sticky heat of July, chard is everywhere at the farmer’s market, all vibrantly colored and adorably bunched. So I decided to play around with chard as a summer vegetable, and stumbled on a couple surprisingly grill-friendly side dishes. With Fourth of July coming around the bend, these would definitely be welcome at any barbecue.

First, a salad. I stole this idea from my friend Isabel, who uses mashed avocado and lemon juice as a dressing for thinly sliced kale. I’m not a huge fan of raw kale, but wondered whether something similar might work with chard instead. The answer is a resounding yes: the buttery avocado smooths the bitterness of the raw greens, mellowing them into something soft and juicy and oddly addictive. Add a few flecks of sweet shallot and a little spicy raw garlic, and you’ve got a killer salad. It’s like a fresher, lighter version of the braised collard greens that so often sit alongside good Southern barbecue. In fact, Sam and I agreed that this would be fantastic as a side to a hunk of grilled meat.

This is a little more involved than your average salad, because it involves massaging the greens. I’d never done this before, and I’ll grant you, it feels a little odd: you coat the chopped greens with a glug of oil, and then knead them aggressively with your hands until they start to break down and soften. It really is like massaging, in a way–imagine you’re giving someone a deep-tissue shoulder rub, but that someone happens to be a bowl of greens. After a few minutes of kneading, the greens turn slippery and soft, and lose a lot of their initial bitterness. They start to taste like salad greens, juicy and dark and just a touch bitter. It seems like a fussy step, but it really does make the difference between inedible health-food salad and creamy, delicious summer-in-a-bowl salad.

Oh, and if you don’t want to use chard, kale would of course work here–as would collard greens, for that matter.

chard avocado salad

Once the salad was consumed, I had a handful of bright red stems left over. I’m a sucker for using the whole chard, and I’ve been craving pickles something fierce. So the stems got thinly sliced into matchsticks, then tossed with a bunch of similarly-cut scallions. I decided to flavor this batch of pickles with garlic, thyme, tarragon, and bay, so those went into the bottom of a jar. Then I packed the jar with stems and scallions, poured over a simple brine, and popped on a lid. In a couple of hours, I had some seriously addictive fridge pickles.

These are a little unusual-tasting, but they’re terrific. The chard stems are fibrous and crisp, like celery, with a faint beetlike sweetness that plays perfectly with the puckery brine. The scallions lose their harshness but keep their quiet oniony essence. The herbs are subtle but pervasive, so that every bite is infused with woodsy flavor. I could easily imagine these scattered over a hot dog or sausage, or even as an accompaniment to a big greasy cheeseburger.

The one slight bummer is that the pickles don’t stay pretty for long; over the course of a few days, the chard slowly gives up most of its color to the brine. For red chard, that means you’ll end up with pale pink pickles in a red brine. They’ll still taste great, though.

pickled chard stems and scallions

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From leftovers to lunch

Okay, I’ve tried to find some unifying theme for this post.  I’ve been typing and then deleting cute, smart-alecky intros for the past twenty minutes.  But you know what?  Here’s the upshot:

I made kimchi fried rice.  And it’s freaking delicious.

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The wait is over! The secret is revealed!

Full disclosure: I’m sitting in a hotel room right now, on day one of a whirlwind business trip, and I’ve had a very long day and I’m just a little loopy. This post may be slightly more, um, idiosyncratic than usual. You’ve been warned.

On to the good stuff. After two three weeks (whoops!) of waiting, I can finally tell you about the Thing that I made (wait for it…) three weeks ago. In the wake of the Great Salsa Verde Fiasco of March 2011, this has now restored my faith that I am, in fact, kind of a badass. Give me a head of cabbage, some chili paste and a whole lotta salt, and I will do science to it.

That’s right. I made kimchi. And it’s awesome.

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