Partying with a Side of Zucchini Pickles

I know what my friends and family are going to think: "your communication with us has dropped to nil because of your dissertation, but you have time to make pickles???"

I guess the answer is "yes."

As a matter of fact, these pickles were made in a rather harried state on Saturday night after my brain decided it could no longer come up with remarkable things to say about research methodology and opted to go clubbing instead. Since during the week I'd also developed a wrought iron desire to try this pickle recipe from the Zuni Cafe, their preparation got thrown into mix of the night's rebellion.

There I was... running back and forth... slicing zucchini... looking for nylons... crushing mustard... rejecting another dress from my closet in exasperation... one part domestic diva, one part minx-in-the-making. It sounds like a feat (obviously, I'm referring to the boiling of vinegar and such, really, the minx thing is second-nature), but they're just that easy!

Anyway, what sparked this obsessive desire to make a batch of tangy refrigerator pickles at 10 o'clock on a Saturday night was this post from the lovely Luisa of The Wednesday Chef, who attempted them despite feeling overwhelmingly down-and-out. Maybe I'm crazily overly empathetic, but making them seem supportive of her somehow - of anyone who's been weighed down by an intolerably heavy fog. And also the idea of making pickles in the middle of London, which to me seems like such a rural countryside sort of activity, sounded so grounding and refreshing and summery... I thought, if she can do it in spite of fantastic...and I have no good excuse to do anything but follow suit.

So if you need to take your mind off anything minute or massive, or perhaps have an excess of zucchini in your life, or maybe just want to temporarily preserve the fading days of summertime, I recommend this as a tasty and mustard-infused way of doing so.

Note: Since I really despise sweet pickles, I only put a 1/3 cup of sugar in my brine... and they still turned out a touch too sweet... next time I would probably add even less, maybe only a tablespoon or two.

Zuni Cafe's Zucchini Pickles

Makes 3 cups
1 pound zucchini
1 small yellow onion
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 cups cider vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed yellow and/or brown mustard seeds
Scant 1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1. Wash and trim the zucchini, then slice them one-sixteenth-inch thick; a mandoline works best, but a good sharp knife is fine, too. Slice the onion very thin as well. Combine the zucchini and onions in a large but shallow nonreactive bowl, add the salt and toss to distribute. Add a few ice cubes and cold water to cover, then stir to dissolve the salt.

2. After about 1 hour, taste and feel a piece of zucchini - it should be slightly softened. Drain and pat dry.

3. Combine the vinegar, sugar, dry mustard, mustard seeds and turmeric in a small saucepan and simmer for 3 minutes. Set aside until just warm to the touch. (If the brine is too hot, it will cook the vegetables and make the pickles soft instead of crisp.)

4. Return the zucchini to a dry bowl and pour over the cooled brine. Stir to distribute the spices. Transfer the pickle to jars, preferably ones that have "shoulders" to hold the zucchini and onions beneath the surface of the brine. Seal tightly and refrigerate for at least a day before serving to allow the flavors to mellow and permeate the zucchini, turning them a brilliant chartreuse color.

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