Here is what the weekend looks like: Friday mornings on the way to my office, I stop at the Union Square Green Market to check out the produce. The past few weeks, the offerings have been in that awkward, gangly, tween stage, no longer winter, not yet spring. Too late for butternut squash. Too early for asparagus. I usually pick up some apples, maybe a few carrots. Last week I also bought a bunch of kale and a few parsnips.
Saturday mornings dawn bright and early with a reliable 6AM wake-up call from a certain someone. My husband and I have one of those thank-God-the-baby’s-still-alive/ Jeezus-it’s-early moments and then one of us sets to baby wrangling (him), while the other (me) starts… cooking. At six in the morning. I know, I never thought I’d be that person, either.
The thing about being a parent (which I’ve learned during my long tenure of seven months :) is that I always feel like I’m behind, running from one thing to the next, trying to squeeze in visits to the grocery store, playground, and post office in between naps, bottles, and solids. We have a wonderful nanny—hence, the time to write this blog post—but she leaves at 4:30 pm. Since my husband doesn’t get home until eight o’clock or later, making dinner during the week has gone completely out the window. This is all a long-winded explanation for why the weekends have become cooking marathons. I make purées for the baby—she likes her butternut baked, her parsnips steamed, and her peas strained. I cook up a big pot of grains to portion out for lunches during the week. I roast a tray of cauliflower or broccoli, sauté kale, toast nuts. I make a double batch of soup, or stew, or spaghetti sauce (like this red curry, or these meatballs, or this mulligatawny, or these baked beans). We eat half for Sunday dinner; the other half gets stored in the fridge or freezer—and no more cooking takes place for the rest of the week.
By now you’re probably thinking, “Wow, is this the most mundane blog post ever?” But wait, can I redeem myself with these lively quick pickled red onions? See, even though my cooking schedule doesn’t allow time for frivolities like homemade garnishes, I love their sparky crunch so much, and they’re so easy to make, I’ve been squeezing them in between the broccoli roasting and quinoa boiling.
The idea comes from Melissa Clark’s recipe for black bean casserole. The very word casserole evokes cozy, oozy deliciousness to me (weird, I know) and I became fixated on cooking this one the minute it appeared online. In fact, I was so enthusiastic that my dad also decided to make it and we spent a few days exchanging cooking notes. (Side note: I couldn’t find the dried pasilla chiles, so I substituted canned Hatch red enchilada sauce. My dad then sent me some chiles, but I haven’t made the recipe again.) Anyway, in a flurry of text messages, we both agreed that our favorite parts of the recipe were the lime cream (simply lime zest stirred into sour cream, or—if you’re a hypochondriac like me—Greek yogurt) and the pickled red onions, tangy, bright, and crunchy. We couldn’t stop emailing about the onions. We started to eat them on a sandwich here, a bowl of chili there. And then, without discussing it, we both ditched the rest of the recipe and started making just the onions.
Here’s what you do: cut a red onion in half lengthwise, and then cut half moon slices, as thin as you can make them. Toss with a dash of lime juice, a pinch of salt and one of sugar. Let the onions marinate at room temperature until their body and bite have been softened by the acid, and the pink color seeps magenta. Enjoy on everything. C’est tout.
These pickles keep for about a week in the fridge and I eat them mainly in a Japanese-esque donburi bowl with salmon, kale, and avocado that I’ll try to blog about soon. But their real beauty—besides the fact that you can whip them up in less than five minutes—is that they add a bright spark to almost anything. Turkey sandwiches. Hog dogs. Bagels and cream cheese. Tuna melts. Breaded chicken. I’d love to pair them with whitefish salad. The possibilities are endless. Now that you know how easy they are to make, I hope you’ll try them and let me know how you eat them, too.
Quick pickled red onions
Adapted from Melissa Clark’s black bean and chorizo casserole
Half a red onion, sliced from root to tip (save the other half for next week’s pickles)
1 lime or lemon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
Cut the onion into half moon slices, as thin as possible. In a bowl, combine the onions with the juice of the lime (or lemon), salt, and sugar. Toss and marinate for at least one hour at room temperature.