Saturday, August 13, 2016

Escabeche (Pickled Carrots, Onions, and Jalapenos)

This should be, but is not, a picture of the magnificent Simone Biles, Laurie Hernandez, and Simone Manuel, with all of whom I have fallen deeply in love.

We interrupt this late-summer heat waving and Olympics binging and Donald Trump cringing and canned seltzer drinking to bring you this: In 1992 we moved to Santa Cruz, ate at the magnificent Tacos Vallarta, gorged on their (free!) escabeche, and were never the same again. After we left California, I missed (our friends and) that escabeche terribly: spicy, vinegary, barely crunchy, vaguely herbal carrots and onions and jalapenos, all ready to spoon onto your carnitas or scoop up with chips or just eat, with a fork, like a salad, while you waited for your food and cried because it was so good and you were pregnant and life was just so beautiful and sad and delicious.

Money in the bank.
So, this recipe. Partly because the canned stuff is decent on the jalapenos front but not so great carrots-wise.

And the crowd goes. . . something less than wild.
And partly because in late summer we get loads of carrots, jalapenos, and onions in our farm share, and this is what I do with them. My goal is to make enough to last the whole year. I usually get to about May with it, which, given how much of it we give away 
Some jars are reserved in advance.
and how incredibly much of it we eat, isn't too bad. 

This is a double-batch, and made 8 half-pint jars. I eyeball the amounts, which is not so great for recipe-writing, I realize. I like a lot of carrots, which is why I use so many. In the cans, there are hardly any carrots! What? But at Vallarta, it's more like this.
What do we do with it, you're wondering? I'll tell you. We eat it with the famous Bean Feast
Bean Feast
which we eat at least once a week year-round. We put it on nachos

And chips. 

And we put it inside quesadillas. It is always exactly what whatever you were eating was missing.

At first. . . 

and then. . . 
Escabeche
These are rough amounts, because I am always eyeballing it. As long as you keep the brine strength (the ratio of vinegar, water, salt, and sugar) the same, you can play with the amounts of vegetables you use. Lots of people add cauliflower, and I'm sure that's great, but I never add it because. . . Tacos Vallarta purist.

1/3 cup olive oil
1 pound onions, peeled, halved and sliced lengthwise 1/3-inch thick
2 pounds carrots, scrubbed or peeled and sliced ¼-inch thick
½ pound jalapenos, stemmed and sliced into rings
1-2 cloves of garlic per jar, peeled
1 bay leaf per jar
1 teaspoon dried oregano

For the brine:
3 cups white vinegar
1 cup water
3 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar

Heat the oil in a heavy pot or deep skillet and add the onions. Cook them over medium heat until they are just starting to go translucent, then add the carrots, jalapenos, garlic, bay leaves, and oregano, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.

Add the brine ingredients, raise the heat, and bring the pot to a boil. Boil until the jalapenos turn from bright green to khaki green, and until the carrots are crisp-tender to your liking (around 10 minutes).

This will keep in a big jar in the fridge for a long time—months, even. It doesn’t freeze well, but if you want to can it, then follow your own knowledge about canning, filling boiling-hot jars with the hot vegetables before ladling in the brine, wiping the rims, and putting on the hot lids. (I don’t process these after because, if something dangerous can grow in that amount of vinegar, then it was going to crawl upstairs and kill me in my sleep anyway.)  If you run out of brine, simply make some more, following the proportions given, and bringing it to a boil before adding it to the jars.

6 comments:

  1. Maybe if you feel like it try substituting some sesame oil for the olive oil..not taqueria vallarta (loves from the santa cruz mtns!) but really, like, swooningly good.

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  2. Hmm I am the only one that likes spicy...but I just might have to try this recipe! Will someone please give me the phonetic spelling, so that I can say it correctly? (Es-ka-bay-chey? Or Es-ka-bay-chee?) gracias!

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  3. You read my mind! I was just wondering how I could possibly make street cart tacos be nearly as delicious at my own house. It's on! xox

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    1. AND you don't have to process in order to can? You are my favorite!

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  4. Catherine, I so appreciate you recipes. Many of them have become beloved staples in our house. In fact, I only grow tomatillos so I can make your roasted tomatillo salsa. We've even made such obscure reipces as the dolmas. :) And, this recipe is perfect timing considering what's in our fridge right now.

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