Zuni Cafe’s Zucchini Pickles

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These pickles have been on my to do list forever. They come from an amazing cookbook: The Zuni Cafe Cookbook, by Judy Rogers.

I have the book sitting 2 feet from me right now, but the recipe is online. The LA Times included the recipe in a great article on pickles a while back. (Uh, like a whole year ago . . . .)

And Luisa made them. When she was feeling depressed. 

Well, if she can do it, so can I.

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Zuni Cafe is famous for these zucchini pickles (among other dishes), but Rogers is careful to give credit regarding the source of the recipe. The “basic recipe” came from one of the older editions of Joy of Cooking, but she learned her version from chef Mark Miller (one of the chefs at Chez Panisse when Rogers worked at that restaurant). Miller has a recipe called Zippy Zucchini Pickles in his book Coyote’s Pantry, but they are prepared and flavored quite a bit differently.

One of the great things about the cookbook is that Rogers is so detailed in her explanations and instructions. She advises against using “big, seedy zucchini: they can be pulpy and have a starchy flavor.” She also warns against using “fingerling” baby zukes because “they rarely have fine flavor, and aren’t worth the premium in price.”

I was careful to pick small, but normal sized zucchini.

The recipe has two components: (a) a brine made with cider vinegar, sugar, dry mustard, mustard seeds, and turmeric; and (b) thinly sliced zucchini and and yellow onion that are soaked or “salt purged” in salted ice water to drive out excess moisture.

The recipe recommends using a mandoline to slice the vegetables into thin slices, but I used a knife and it worked just fine.

Here is what did not work for me: the recipe says to soak the zucchini and then make the brine. The brine needs to boil for 3 minutes and then cool until “just warm to the touch” before being combined with the vegetables. It took forever for the brine to cool down. The vegetables had soaked for an hour, were drained and dried, and I was still waiting and waiting and waiting for the brine to cool down. I would recommend starting the brine and then slicing and soaking the zucchini.

You will be amazed at these pickles. I still can’t believe I made them.

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