There are times when I get home from work, drop my bag, open the fridge, and dinner just jumps out at me. I see the garlic scapes on the middle shelf, the tomatoes on the counter, some good ricotta lurking in the back, and it's done: summer pasta.
But other times, despite what others surely would call a full fridge, I can't seem to find anything to make. Last Wednesday was one of those times, and I'll have you know that I came this close to running down the street and grabbing a rice bowl--before an idea popped into my head.
A couple weeks ago, friends had us over for a last-minute al fresco dinner. The plan was to fry up some of the squash blossoms that had bloomed in their garden; we figured the rest would come together. I brought a mondo salad and some fresh mozzarella to stuff in those squash blossoms. They pulled off some amazing Mexican elote-style corn and a bunch of other grilled things. But perhaps the star of the show - not to take away from the elote and the blossoms - was the appetizer, which they'd made with the help of Blue Apron.
If you don't know it, Blue Apron is one of these start-up cooking services that sends you perfectly portioned amounts of everything you need to make dinner for two at home. The ingredients seem high-quality, the instructions are clear, and the recipes are pretty creative. I've spent quite a bit of time on their website, and I've found about a dozen great ideas for easy, inexpensive dinners that you can make at home in about 30 minutes.
These pickles were an accompaniment to a Korean-style scallion pancake. We noshed on them while we finished getting dinner on the table, but I couldn't stop thinking about them for days, so I finally looked up the recipe and made them and the scallion pancake at home, rescuing my cash from the rice bowl place in the nick of time.
There is one ingredient in the pickles that you might not have lying around: black vinegar, also called Chinkiang vinegar. It's mellow and a little bit malty; I love it in a tofu stir fry, and it's perfect in these pickles. The one I have is available for 7 bucks on Amazon, but if you can't find it, you can substitute an equal amount of rice wine vinegar and if you have it, add a teaspoon or so of sorghum molasses for that smoky, malty flavor.
Perfect Asian Quick-Pickles Adapted from Blue Apron Makes enough for 4 as a snack
2 Kirby or Persian cucumbers, halved crosswise and cut lengthwise into quarters 4 radishes, cut into thick coins 1 garlic scape, coined (or substitute 1 scallion) 2 teaspoons sesame oil 1 tablespoon soy sauce 1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar (or substitute an equal amount of rice vinegar with a teaspoon of molasses) 1 teaspoon Sambal Oelek, sriracha, or other hot chile sauce, to taste
Combine all ingredients except the vegetables in a medium bowl and whisk with a fork to combine. Taste, and adjust the quantities of chile, vinegar, and soy sauce as needed. Add vegetables, stir to coat with the marinade, and set aside for about 15 minutes before serving.