Wednesday, March 28, 2012

In a Pickle at Tender Greens

Pete Balistreri and, uh, Pete Balistreri. Cousins.
Tender Greens, a chain of casual organic restaurants, is the best sort of chain--each location has its own local style intact. And, by local, I mean truly local. The San Diego Tender Greens buys produce from local farms; in fact, one of their vendors, Pt. Loma Farm, is literally across the street. They also whip up their own unique creations. The chefs Pete Balistreri (they are cousins who share the same name) are currently in the final stages of securing U.S.D.A. approval to sell their handcrafted salamis. You can enjoy them at their Liberty Station location on the charcuterie board, but soon also at other locations via retail.

They also are terrific picklers. Recently Pete -- on the left -- taught a pickling class at the Fashion Valley Williams-Sonoma. I couldn't make it, so I was invited for a private session in the restaurant's kitchen. Two chefs, three types of pickles. An irresistible offer.

Most people who shy away from home pickling do it because they're intimidated by the canning process. Now, with these three recipes, no canning is involved--although you could do it if you wanted. These are basically meant to be eaten quickly and within a week. Here, we used conventional cucumbers, cauliflower, and onions--but you could select other vegetables to great effect. In fact, the cauliflower recipe was originally written for fennel. For the cucumber, you can substitute with Japanese or English cucumbers. For the onions, go for white, yellow, or red onions--or garlic or shallots, or a combination. This is easy stuff and wonderful to snack on to add a little acid to a meal to cut the fat in a charcuterie or cheese plate, or a fatty protein like pork, salmon, or lamb.

Asian-Style Pickle
from Pete Balistreri

Sliced cucumbers
Rice wine vinegar
Red peppercorns

How easy is this. Just mix all the ingredients together. Refrigerate for an hour. Eat. Serve with fish (how about sashimi?) and a salad. Mix the liquid with olive oil and create a vinaigrette. Or heat the liquid and pour over tougher cucumber varieties like lemon cukes, wait till they cool, then eat. (Note: I make these all the time but use red pepper flakes instead of the whole peppercorns. They're my perfect quick and refreshing snack on a hot summer day.)

Pickled Onions
from Pete Balistreri
Yield: 3 quarts

3 cups red wine vinegar
7 cups water
1 cup red wine (like a Pinot Noir)
1/2 cup sugar
1 bunch thyme
6 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
4 onions (yellow or red), julienned

Mix together all the ingredients but the onions in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Pour over the onions. Let cool. Give them 24 hours to develop their color and then serve. Try these inside a beef taco or to top a salad.

Pickled Cauliflower
from Pete Balistreri
Yield: 2 quarts

3 cups champagne vinegar
8 cups water
1/2 cup sugar
1 bunch thyme
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 head cauliflower

Mix all ingredients but the cauliflower in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Pour over the vegetables. Let cool, wait 24 hours for the color to develop, then serve. You can save the liquid and reheat for another batch.

Print Page


  1. Been wanting to make onions like that for a while. How long do they keep? And do they need to stay in the fridge? Thanks!

    1. Yes, the need to be refrigerated and should keep for a week.