One of my favorite cookbooks is Amy Pennington’s Urban Pantry: Tips & Recipes for a Thrifty, Sustainable & Seasonal Kitchen.
I moved to NYC in 2009 and really struggled to bring what I knew about cooking (big, farm-style kitchens full of enough good things to feed an army) into a single girl’s apartment. This book was a godsend for how to do a lot with a little – like how to make something for the pantry from a quart of damson plums picked up at the greenmarket, rather than renting a car to drive to a farm for a half-bushel of seconds for jam.
I left the city house for our country house nearly four years ago but held onto this slim little book with its many small batch recipes – Amy’s brandied cherries are some of my favorite preserves to share as gifts. But the real value for me is in the few pages about quick pickles – techniques for making brines and cures and soaks with different types of flavorings for different types of vegetables.
Without fail, I make these sesame-flavored cucumber pickles every summer – we eat them from the jar, serve them alongside Thai take-out, puree them as a dipping sauce for lettuce wraps, or make them the main ingredient in a salad accompanying stir-fry. And any time we have a bit of leftover cucumber, we’ll slice it and slide it into the bottom of the brining jar, so as to maintain the supply.
Make The Brine
Since cucumbers are a soft vegetable, I follow Amy’s instructions and don’t use any heat treatment on the brine. Mix together:
- 2 cups or so of white* vinegar
- 2 heaping TBSP of kosher salt
- 1 TBSP sesame oil
Pack The Carton
Slice approximately a pound of cucumbers and place them in a container with a water-tight lid. Sprinkle 1 TBSP of sesame seeds over the cucumbers. Pour the brine over the top, making sure there is enough to cover the vegetables. Place the lid on the container and put it in the fridge.
These pickles taste good within 30 minutes, fabulous within 6 hours, and are still great after being stored for a couple of weeks.