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Friday, July 27, 2007

In A Pickle

Last time I posted a bread recipe. Here are recipes for pickles that are nearly always served with meals in Middle Eastern restaurants.

I'm really fond of the pink turnip pickles. The first time we ate at Bethlehem on Clark Street in Chicago we were served a small dish of these pickles, and some small, hard, very sour green olives. They were my favorite part of the meal - almost.

After eating these pickles in countless restaurants all over Chicago I finally asked the server what they were called. He looked at me for a moment as though I were insane, then said, tersely, "turnips".

I probably turned pinker than the pickles and somehow managed to let him know I wanted the name of the pickles in his language. His opinion of me did not seem to improve as he shrugged and muttered what sounded like "lef".

I have since seen recipes for these pickles called "torshi lift", torshi left" and "kabees el lift" so I guess that's what he was telling me. I'll stick with turnips.

Turnip Pickles

1 lb white turnips quartered if small,
or cut in 1 inch chunks if large
1 small beet scrubbed and sliced
1 1/4 cups water
2/3 cups vinegar
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar

Place the turnips and the beet into a jar large enough to hold them - one that has a close fitting lid.

In a non-reactive pot (glass, enamel or stainless steel) Combine the water, vinegar, sugar and salt and heat, stirring, until salt and sugar are dissolved. Cool, then pour over the turnips in the jar. Cover the jar tightly.

I store these in the refrigerator. They are ready to eat in a week.

Note: The beet is there to color the turnips, but you can eat the slices if you wish.

Quick Middle Eastern Style Pickles

8 cups of vegetables, cut in chunks
I use a mix of cabbage (outer leaves removed), cauliflower, carrot, celery, onion, red, green or yellow peppers, green beans, radishes, peeled garlic cloves, etc.
red chili pepper flakes or cayenne pepper
2 cups vinegar
2 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon kosher salt

Place the vegetables, tightly packed, in large jars. I like to mix them up so you get a mix of pickles when you dip into the finished pickles.

Add a chili pepper, some chili pepper flakes or some cayenne pepper to each jar, to taste, for spicier pickles.

In a non-reactive pot (glass, enamel or stainless steel) heat the liquid with the salt until salt is dissolved. Cool, then pour over the vegetables in the jar. The vegetables should be completely covered.

Cover jars loosely until completely cool, then cover tightly and keep in the fridge (the original recipe says they can stay on the counter a few days but I put them right in the fridge). Pickles are ready to eat in a few days and will improve after a week or more. Keeps refrigerated one month.

An easy to make salad, often served with felafel and schwarma, is Jerusalem or Lebanese salad (depending on the restaurant). Basically, it's diced cucumber and tomato dressed with lemon juice, olive oil, parsley and tahini. Sometimes it contains onions, never lettuce. This is good to eat with your pilaf or to stuff into your felafel sandwich.

And for a refreshing beverage to go along with your Middle Eastern meal, make some mint tea.

Fill your tea pot with the usual amount of tea. Any black tea will do. Add a handful of fresh mint leaves or a spoonful or two of dried mint. (If you don't have mint growing in your yard, find a friend or neighbor who does). Add boiling water and steep about five minutes. Serve in glasses or cups with lemon and lots of sugar. Sugar cubes or lumps are especially fun.

Don't get pickled!

Quotable Quotes; In the category Look Ma! No Hands!

“I don't want a pickle, just want to ride on my motorsickle.” Arlo Guthrie

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