Pickled Ramps


There are many ways to know that spring has arrived in New York city. Daffodils bloom and provide some of the first splashes of color in an otherwise still winter grey city. Bradford pear trees do their own blooming, brilliantly white, like a bright memory of the snow that was covering their branches just weeks ago. People seem to blossom too. New Yorkers are happier, nicer, they start to wear colors other than black and dark blue. The parks fill up during lunch time, despite the chill that is often still in the air.

But the most certain sign that spring is here is the arrival of ramps. Sometimes called wild leeks or wild garlic, they were pretty much unknown to most New Yorkers a few years ago. But they became the ‘it’ food one year and since then they have been arriving in larger and larger quantities every year. They deserve all the attention. They have a distinct garlic scent and flavor but they are so mild they can be eaten raw. The leaves can be added to salads, used to make pesto, or simply sautéed in olive oil for a great side dish. I like to chop them and add them to tomato sauce for pasta.

The stems and bulbs are wonderful chopped and sautéed themselves or sprinkled raw over salads. But my favorite way of eating them is pickled. Left in a sweet and salty brine for a day or two, they transform into irresistible batons of complex flavor. I chop the pickled stems and sprinkle them over pretty much everything: salads, chicken, fish, vegetables. Though I’ve been known to eat some of them straight out of the jar too. They are that good.DSC05077

Pickled Ramps


About 8oz ramps
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 cup rice vinegar
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt


Wash the ramps and trim off the roots. Some ramps will have a slimy layer on the stems. Remove it. Cut the ramps in two, where the leaves start and the top part of the stems ends. Reserve the leaves for something else. Place all the stems in a 1-pint jar (make sure they are not packed too tight; leave room for the brine). Add fennel seeds and peppercorns.

In a medium saucepan, add vinegar, water, sugar and salt and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Pour boiling brine in jar over ramps almost all the way to the top, leaving about 1/4 inch (you’ll have some brine left over). Seal jar with lid and let cool. Place in refrigerator.

Ramps are ready to eat after a couple of hours but they are much better after at least 24 hours. Kept in refrigerator they will last for up to two weeks.

Pickled Carrots


There is a Greek Orthodox holiday called clean Monday (kathara deftera). It’s the end of carnival (the Sunday right before it, when everyone dresses up in costumes, much like Halloween) and the beginning of the great lent before Easter. Carnival is the last day of being able to eat meat and clean Monday is the first day of fasting. Since it always takes place in the spring, the tradition has always been to go out into the countryside and have a picnic that is all vegetarian.

Even as a kid, I wasn’t that excited by the idea of eating on the hard ground outdoors. But there was one reason for which I really looked forward to clean Monday: the pickles. These weren’t the American variety pickles, in salted brines or heavy on spices. These were pure vinegar, sugar, and water pickles. There were all kinds of vegetables (cauliflower, beets, carrots), all tantalizingly tart and crisp. And there was pickla, a mixture of veggies pickled in a vinegar and mustard sauce that I ate by the spoonful.

I absolutely loved everything pickled, and I still do. This recipe for pickled carrots couldn’t be simpler. It’s a little different than how carrots would have been pickled when I was a kid, but it still has everything I love: bracing sourness, a satisfying amount of sweetness, and an audible crunch.


Pickled Carrots

Note: If you don’t have the right spices, don’t worry. You can use whatever whole spices you have. Experiment with different flavors.


1 lb carrots peeled, and cut into 1/2″ thick sticks
1 cup white wine vinegar
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly smashed
2 mason jars or any other glass containers that can withstand boiling water


Place carrot sticks in mason jars (don’t pack them too tight; leave room for the brine). Divide peppercorns, mustard seeds, fennel seeds, and garlic between the jars.

In a small saucepan, bring vinegar, water, sugar and salt to a boil, stirring to make sure the sugar and salt dissolve. Carefully pour boiling brine over carrots in mason jars, leaving only about 1/2 inch from top. Let them cool for about 30 minutes, close jars with their lids, and refrigerate.

Pickles are ready to eat after just a few hours but they are best after a day or two. They last in the fridge for at least a couple of weeks.

Pickled Watermelon Rind


I confess that in my goal to post on this blog every week, I sometimes have to share recipes that I simply like, instead of recipes that I absolutely, positively, totally ADORE! It’s just not possible to find a new recipe every week that is a life changer. But once in a while, I do find a recipe that results in something so delicious, so interesting, so enticing, that I can’t wait to share it with anyone who’s willing to listen.

This is one of those recipes. Pickled watermelon rind is nothing new,  though it’s somewhat new to me. Where I grew up, a traditional desert was watermelon rind that had been preserved in a heavy sugar syrup. It was always kept in the fridge and served ice cold in the hot summer months. It has always been one of my favorites.


So when I saw this recipe for pickled watermelon rind in Bon Appétit, I was a little put off by the idea of a pickled version of one of my favorite desserts. So I ignored it. But then, the wonderful guys of the Bitten Word blog made it and they gushed about it so much that I decided to give it a try myself.

It was an easy process. Peel the rind, cut it into pieces, cook it for a little while in the pickling liquid, and pour everything in a glass jar. A few hours in the fridge and Steve and I took our first bite of the golden-green-red cubes. We didn’t say a word for a few seconds and then we both started laughing and crying out “oh my god! this is so amazing!”

Yes, it’s that good. It’s sweet and sour and a tiny bit spicy, with that distinct flavor of the star anise to round everything out. And the texture is simply miraculous. Each bite goes from crunchy to soft, while always incredibly juicy. It’s a great side dish to heavily spiced or spicy foods, goes great with seafood, or as a little starter snack before dinner. Though I would probably even consider having it as dessert.


Pickled Watermelon Rind – Slightly dapted from Bon Appétit


About 4 lbs of watermelon
1 large (or two small) thai red chile, cut in half lengthwise, seeds removed
1 1″ piece peeled ginger, thinly sliced
2 star anise pods
4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 cup sugar
1 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1/2 cup water


Using a vegetable peeler, remove tough green rind from watermelon; discard.

Slice watermelon in about 1″ thick slices. Cut away all but ¼” flesh from each slice; reserve flesh for another use. Cut rind into 1″ pieces. (You should have about 4 cups.)

Bring chile, ginger, star anise, salt, peppercorns, sugar, vinegar, and ½ cup water to a boil in a large saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar and salt. Add watermelon rind and return to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until just crisp tender (this will take anywhere between 5 and 15 minutes; use a fork or knife to test a piece). Remove from heat and let cool, setting a small lid or plate directly on top of rind to keep submerged in brine, if needed.

Transfer rind and liquid to an airtight container (I used a 3 cup – 24 oz mason jar); cover and chill at least 12 hours.

DO AHEAD: Watermelon rind can be pickled 2 weeks ahead. Keep chilled.