Pickles... what's there not to like? They're refreshing, crunchy, juicy, and bursting with tangy, sweet, and savory flavors. They're the perfect condiment with creamy cheeses or equally rich cured or smoked proteins. Just like French cornichon, the contain the right amount of acidity to cut the fat and easily digest it.
They can also be chopped and served over a bowl of rice, a humble meal served in many parts of Asia. They complement all sorts of grilled or roasted meats or deep-fried fish. More importantly, they're easy to make ahead of time. For a busy working person, that might be just enough of a reason to go out and grab a basket full of produce to experiment with, using my basic Asian-style pickling liquid.
Here I use yellow and green string beans, but this recipe is also excellent with Japanese or Persian cucumbers, daikon, or cauliflower, for example. Feel free to experiment with cabbage too or cherry green tomatoes.
PICKLED CURRY STRING BEANS
Be sure to use unseasoned rice vinegar, as the seasoned version already has salt and sugar. It is better to be in control of the amount of sugar and salt right from the beginning, adjusting to your taste. Anything pickled will last a few weeks, even months, but guaranteed these won't last a week, because they're that good.
(makes 1 quart)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 cups unseasoned plain rice or white vinegar
2 teaspoons Indian curry powder
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
3 large garlic cloves, peeled
5 ounces green string beans (about 1-1/4 cup), stem end trimmed
5 ounces yellow string beans (about 1-1/4 cup), stem end trimmed
1) in a mixing bowl, add the salt and sugar. Whisk in the vinegar until the sugar and and salt dissolve completely. (Do not try to melt over heat or you will weaken the flavor of the vinegar). Stir in the curry, coriander seeds and peppercorns.
2) In a wide-mouthed quart jar, place the string beans vertically. Add the garlic cloves, scattering and pushing them in a bit, then whisk and pour in the pickling liquid. Refrigerate for 1 week for optimum flavor. If you like the string beans more firm, try them after 2 days. If you like them softer, let them macerate for 2 weeks or longer.
NOTE: though there is sugar and salt in the pickling liquid, understand that when eating these string beans the actual amount of sugar and salt going into your body is negligible. It's all in the liquid, which presumably you will not be drinking!
HEALTH BENEFITS: Vitamin A, B1, B2, B3, B6, C, K, iron, calcium, folate, potassium, protein, fiber... an antioxidant as well. Eat your beans!
This recipe is adapted from my recently published book, "Switch-It-Up: A Fresh Take on Quick and Easy Diabetes-Friendly Recipes for a Balanced Life" for the American Diabetes Association. Also check out my other book "Asian Flavors Diabetes Cookbook," which won a 2013 Nautilus Book Award.