Thursday, February 17, 2011
Escabeche, A Pretty Little Pickle
We're safely past the midpoint of February, and the big thaw continues. I'm hoping to be able to pluck the first wild watercress of the year this weekend, and getting some seeds started--for leeks, head lettuces, cabbage--may be optimistic, but not out of the question.
The root cellar continues to provide carrots, squash, potatoes, parsnips, leeks; from the freezer, tomatoes, wild mushrooms, corn; the fruits of my fermentations still give us sauerkraut, red kale/kimchi/seaweed, and sour beets. It's all good, and a good variety, when you look at it. Nothing could tempt me to indulge in asparagus or green beans, from the grocery store. For one thing, it wouldn't be an indulgence--those spring and summer veg in winter always taste weird to me. (I'll confess a weakness for guacamole, though; the avocadoes have been really good lately.)
What I start to miss this time of year is the freshness, the brightness of vegetables straight from the garden or market. The braising pot is my dear friend, but now and then my teeth need a workout, my palate needs a jolt.
Enter the escabeche: I'm sure I use the term quite loosely. It's generally applied, I think, to fried fish added to a vinegary marinade, then cooled. Or it may mean the marinade, per se. Which may include vegetables, or not. For me it's a quick hot pickle, eaten immediately, though it will keep. (Something about the word itself makes me think of fast: Vite, vite! Pronto! Escabeche!) It is particulary good with fish, like this trout with springtime escabeche of ramps and asparagus.
And then the other night we were preparing to broil a couple of Lake Superior herring fillets that would be served with a mildy hot chili oil vinaigrette (I'm cravin' a lot of spice these days), and I wanted something fresh and crunchy and tart.
Down to the basement for a carrot and a parsnip. Cuisinart makes a rare appearance: into the tube, slicer attachment installed, a carrot, a small parsnip (both peeled), a large clove of garlic, a small red onion.
Dump all that into a small saucepan, add about three tablespoons of olive oil, half that of cider vinegar, and some chili--I'd been soaking some lovely chilies kept from the market last summer, Red Rocket, I believe, so I added one of those, chopped. You could crumble in any dried red chili, heat to suit, or add a teaspoon of sambal. A grind of black pepper, good pinch of sea salt.
I just brought that up to a boil, turned off the heat, covered the pot, let it sit until we were ready to eat. It was just the thing against the soft and flavorful fish napped in my piri-piri style sauce (I made that recipe with olive oil, using half the amount of oil called for).
The pickle will keep a few days, and it was good with a chicken sandwich. The vegetables can be whatever's on hand--celery or celery root, fennel (a fave), green beans sliced, and I imagine an apple wouldn't be bad in this, at all. The piri-piri sauce will keep a while, as well--it was originally made to dress the grilled chicken that wound up in the sandwich....
Keep 'er rollin'.
Text and photo copyright 2011 by Brett Laidlaw