My refrigerator shelves are one knock away from an avalanche. I have plastic wrap-covered bowls of leftover sorghum stacked precariously on top of pickle jars. I’ve snatched a falling jar of precious pine nuts from mid-air at least twice. (Side note: I once snatched up a free-falling baby by the ankle. That was a relief.)
I have a hard time finding cooking inspiration when my fridge is jam-packed with leftovers to be consumed by yours truly. And to tell you the whole truth, every time I find myself cooking a family-sized meal, I hear a little whisper of a worry in the back of my head. “I hope I don’t cook alone forever,” it murmurs.
Growing up, I always enjoyed the creative aspect of combining different ingredients in the hopes of a delicious outcome. I didn’t formally take it upon myself to learn how to cook until after college, though. At the time, I was working as a waitress and reading books about the food industry and nutrition. I wanted to eat well and couldn’t afford to eat out all of the time, so I decided it was time to learn how to cook for myself.
That was the perfect stage to start cooking—if I’d had others to feed at that time, I would have resented the obligation and felt insecure about my limited skill set. Cooking had always seemed like a form of domestic defeat but I found cooking for myself to be empowering. Independence! Self sufficiency! Hell yes!
It’s been about six years since I started cooking. Over the years, I’ve grown more confident in the my abilities and I’m now at a point where I would welcome some company in the kitchen. My ideal cooking partner would be tall, handsome, intelligent, kind and hilarious with strong muscles—I mean, a healthy appetite. I need help with these leftovers. And the dishes, pretty please. Sometimes I worry that I’ve missed the right opportunity or that I’m impossibly picky or maybe I’m just not in the right place…
Anyway. Today I’m sharing my new favorite condiment since my refrigerator is already whispering to me about all the family-sized meals in there. I’ve been putting radishes on everything lately because they lend a lovely bite without overpowering other flavors like, say, raw onions can. Their pickled counterparts pack a spicier, vinegary punch. These crisp, spicy radish pickles are super easy to make and liven up everything from tacos, burgers, salads, toast, sandwiches and more.
I don’t know what took me so long to try making quick pickles—they’re so simple and easy to make. I finally experimented with them a couple of months ago (as evidenced on Instagram), after reading the nth reference to quick pickles in Bon Appetit. I ended up pickling all of my leftover produce that day. The radishes and red onions competed for top place. Pickled carrot ribbons are awesome, too.
The nice thing about quick pickles is that they’re ready almost right away, but beware that boiling vinegar will stink up your kitchen. I’ve learned that the thinner you slice the vegetables, the sooner they soak up the flavors of vinegar and spices. I caved and bought a mandoline for such tasks—it makes super thin slicing quick and easy, but it’s also a good way to lose a fingertip. A sharp chef’s knife works well, too. Quick pickles keep well for a few weeks in the refrigerator, which is enough time for this single lady to polish them off.
- 1 bunch radishes
- ¾ cup white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
- ¾ cup water
- 3 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (this yields very spicy pickles, so use ½ teaspoon for medium spicy pickles or none at all)
- ½ teaspoon whole mustard seeds (optional)
- Optional add-ins: garlic cloves, black peppercorns, fennel seeds, coriander seeds
- To prepare the radishes: Slice off the tops and bottoms of the radishes, then use a sharp chef's knife or mandoline to slice the radishes into very thin rounds. Pack the rounds into a pint-sized canning jar. Top the rounds with red pepper flakes and mustard seeds.
- To prepare the brine: In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar, water, honey or maple syrup and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally, then pour the mixture over the radishes.
- Let the mixture cool to room temperature. You can serve the pickles immediately or cover and refrigerate for later consumption. The pickles will keep well in the refrigerator for several weeks, although they are in their most fresh and crisp state for about 5 days after pickling.
Make it vegan: Substitute maple syrup or agave nectar for the honey.
Change it up: To the best of my knowledge, you can pickle any thinly sliced vegetables in this manner. Try carrot ribbons, cucumbers, red onions, cabbage and/or fennel! The thinner you slice the vegetables, the faster they absorb the vinegar solution and taste like pickles.