Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Pickled Onions – Onion Pickles

Pick a peck of pickled onions!

Onion Pickles or Pickled Onions - doesn't matter, just pick a peck!
 It doesn’t matter whether you call this delectable condiment pickled onions or onion pickles, because you will still feel excitement and the burst of spring with every bite. Best news yet? They take mere minutes to make. Pack a wallop of nutrition. And onion pickles cost almost nothing to make. Aunt Bea would have liked this recipe, because these onion pickles don’t take months to develop, nor do they require any heavy equipment like home pressure canners, canning tongues, you get the idea.

From start to finish, pickled onions take 15 to 20 minutes to make, including the passive resting time when the onions are “pickling,” but you can make them up to a day ahead and enjoy them at your leisure. In fact, I’ve kept them for up to two to three days, although I don’t like doing that because I feel like some of their nutritional value gets lost over time.

And like many of my other recipes, onion pickles are flexible! Don’t have purple onions? Easy. Use white onions, or yellow onions, or Texas 1014s, Vidallias, or shallots, or boilers, or torpedo onions, or leeks, or even trickier – use a combination of onions for a more complex flavor. My current favorite onion of the month is the beautiful purple onion. Wee! Look at me I’m Susie, Bubba Gump’s answer to onion pickles!

Mama and Daddy in their "salad days" - young and glamorous
in Mexico City.
 When we were little, Mama and Daddy used to go white wing hunting every fall, down in South Texas. Because their hunting lodge was so close to Reynosa (the Mexican border), they would travel across the border to eat and drink in wonderful restaurants and bars in Reynosa.

Sam’s was one of their favorite restaurants and Daddy spent many years trying to perfect a copycat recipe of Sam’s Pickled Onions – they served them to their guests as an amuse bouche (fun, tease the mouth, pre-appetizer) to whet palates and get their guests to drink more!

Mama and Daddy many years later,
towards the end of his illness with
primary pulmonary hypertension.

(Note: Anyone with the recipe for Sam’s authentico pickled onions from Sam’s in Reynosa, please post it here? You would have my unending gratitude and if I had a first born, I would mail the little bundle of joy to you forthwith! Instead, you would simply be the bearer of my constant compliments and happiness.)

Home from the war - Dad, young and dashing.
 Home from the war, our Dad took as much interest in cooking and food as Mama. He had a notorious desire for specific dishes, over and over again (hellooooo, Sam's Pickled Onions). And maybe an equally notorious penchant for black listing any number of establishments for pissing him off during service! Oh that list was long and he was infamous for his temper when chefs screwed up. He grew up with a daddy in the restaurant business. Grandaddy owned the Inter Urban Buffet across the street from the old Rice Hotel on Texas Avenue, back in the 20s and 30s. But, I digress!

I first saw these particular pickled onions made by Jamie Oliver on his cooking show, Jamie at Home. I dropped everything and stopped what I was doing, ran to the kitchen and whipped out my first batch of onion pickles in less than ten minutes flat! I thought I’d died and gone to heaven and pinched myself for a reality check. They reminded me of my memories of Daddy and Sam’s Pickled Onions and yet, they felt more sophisticated and elevated by the lemon zest and parsley.

Onion Pickles, zesty, salty, crisp, delicious!
 The texture of the onion pickles are more crisp than the Sam's Pickled Onions. So refreshing! I ate the whole batch with nothing but my fingers! One onion string and one flake of parsley at a time. Pickled onions with a side of SusieT.

Thank you Jamie Oliver, you continue to inspire and delight me with your fresh approach to accessible, no-nonsense, every day gourmet for the average monkey (me, Susie).

Onion Pickles with Grilled Meditteranean Lamb Shoulder Chop
I quickly made another batch of onion pickles, and this time managed to wait until dinner to serve it to our guests as a quick pickle condiment along with grilled lamb shoulder chops.

To be honest, I haven’t found a single meat or seafood that doesn’t shine when accompanied by these zingy, salty, lemony, refreshing little strings of pickled onions.

I do have my favorite meat entrees to showcase the onion pickles. Lamb tops the list. Lamb meat is naturally grass fed by definition and they almost never have hormones or antibiotics thrust upon them. And because lamb shoulder chops can be found for as little as $3.99/lb, they are my wallet’s quick favorite too. Just a quick grill or a sear in a pan and voila, instant happiness.

Click on images to enlarge.
 I also love any firm white fleshed fish, especially halibut or Snapper from the Texas Gulf Coast. Newsflash though, fish is pricey these days and I watch my consumption not only because of price, but certainly because of the content of heavy metals, PCBs, dioxins and other nasties that invade these delicacies from the pond and sea. When you have any kind of disease compromising your immune system, such as breast cancer, you should talk to your doctor about whether seafood and fish in general are safe to eat.

But, really it doesn’t matter if the meat accompanying these pickled onions is lamb, pork, chicken, beef, or wild game like venison. The onion pickles hit it out of the park each time. Heck, forget the meat and go vegetarian on their buttocks. These pickled onions taste great as a grilled veggie sidekick. Don’t even get me started extolling the praises of grilled portabella mushrooms with onion pickles – kind of a hearty Ed McMahon to a refined Johnny Carson. Heyyyyy-ohhhhh! Zing! Tastes like spring!

Quickly now, run into the kitchen and whip up a batch right now, then come back and sing your praises for the simple onion pickle, pickled onion. It truly won’t matter how you say it – toe-may-toe, toe-mah-toe, the onion pickle, pickled onion will still add zest to your meal!

Pickled Onion, Onion Pickles

Serves – 4
Prep Time – 10 Minutes
Cook Time – None
Inactive Time – 10 Minutes

Ingredients4 oz Onions or Shallots
1/2c Italian Flat Leaf Parsley
1 Tbsp Zest of Lemon
¼ Lemon, juiced
1 lg pinch Kosher or Sea Salt
1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil


Peel and wash onions. Sliver lengthwise into thin strips.

Zest lemon and reserve for later.

Squeeze one quarter of fresh lemon over onions.

Add a pinch or two of good Kosher or natural sea salt.

Scrunch the onions. Jamie says, "Really, scrunch them with your fingers."

Let the onions sit with the lemon and salt while you prepare the remaining ingredients.

Wash and dry the flat leaf parsley. I do this the day ahead and wrap it in a clean kitchen towel and store in a produce bag in the crisper drawer of the fridge. That way, it’s ready at any time and keeps longer.

Roughly separate the leaves of the parsley from the stems. If you get some stems in there, no problem, just chop the stems a little more. I like to coarsely chop the parsley leaves for more texture, but let your tastes determine the degree of chop.

After about ten minutes, the onion pickles are ready to combine with the other players. They’ve released their juices and most of the “bite” is gone.

Combine onions with lemon zest and parsley. Be sure to get all the juices in there too! There's "gold" in the form of vitamins and minerals present in the juices from the onion pickles.

Drizzle about one half to one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil over onion pickles. Use a good quality oil, but it doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg, either!

Toss to incorporate ingredients and serve.

You can also cover and store in the ice box until ready to serve, up to one day ahead.

Nutritional Information

Nutritional Information – Full Recipe

Nutritional Information – Single Serving

SusieT’s Notes:

These onion pickles will quickly become a new addiction. But don’t feel bad! They are a very healthy addiction. Read all about the humble onion in the Did You Know facts. It’s a cancer fighting powerhouse and even repels vampires and werewolves! No, wait. My bad. Maybe not – you’re pretty much on your own with the last two evil villains.

This recipe easily converts for use with other citrus fruits. You can use limes or even things like tangerines or grapefruit if your carb allowance and medicine contraindications accommodate. I love the fresh burst of flavor that comes from the citrus elements of the dish. Don’t be afraid of the zest, it really adds depth of flavor! Just be sure to use only the colored layer of the citrus when zesting because the white underlayer is bitter.

Spring Salad Tossed with House Vinaigrette and Pickled Onions
You can toss fresh spring lettuce, tomatoes and shaved parmesan with the onion pickles and a little bit of House Vinaigrette for a refreshingly light salad.

Oh snap! That sounds like a plan for tonight’s dinner, thank you very much for the idea!

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