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Quick pickled red onions

By Ann | April 24, 2014

pickled onions and bagel

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.

quick pickled onions

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.

onion slices

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.

quick pickled onions raw

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 onions 2quick pickled onions and bagel 2

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.

Topics: New York City, Recettes | 13 Comments »

13 Responses to “Quick pickled red onions”

  1. Jeanne Says:
    April 24th, 2014 at 11:10 pm

    Yum, those onions sound so easy and so delicious. Also the lime in yogurt/sour cream sounds amazing. I am impressed that you have the time and energy for your weekend cooking marathons and I love that you are teaching the baby to have a discriminating palate.

  2. CK Says:
    April 25th, 2014 at 2:33 am

    They were sublime on hot dogs — still crave those onions!

  3. Lindy Says:
    April 25th, 2014 at 6:04 am

    Not fair! I am an hour’s drive from a lime. What a clever and quick idea. I have red onions. I have a lemon (it won’t taste the same). And just seeing your picture of a bagel made me salivate. I am eight hours flight from a decent bagel. But I’ll give it a go. It will have to go on my perfect pain de seigle loaf (at least we have brilliant bread in Deepest Rural France, crunchy lettuce from the garden and fromage blanc and ham.

  4. Elizabeth Minchilli Says:
    April 25th, 2014 at 8:34 am

    I make some version of these all the time. In fact, it’s what I usually do with any onions before adding the to a salad. And then everyone is always asking what the secret ingredient is. I often do them with vinegar instead of citrus, which makes the vinegar delicious.
    A word about onions: better to use up the entire onion and ‘pickle’ it. It will keep much longer pickled than not. Once cut onions (or any allium) starts to deteriorate quickly, so better to either cook it, preserve it, or throw it away

  5. Bob Says:
    April 25th, 2014 at 5:13 pm

    Actually, USDA guidelines state that cut onions will last in a refrigerator (40 F or lower) for 7 days. I just finished up an 8-day old cut red onion from my fridge. See this useful link all about onions: http://onions-usa.org/faqs

  6. katy Says:
    April 25th, 2014 at 9:54 pm

    Although having a puppy and having a baby are completely different things, I remember the days when things were so crazy around here that I felt we’d never have a decent meal again. But, fortunately, that feeling too shall pass and then you might find yourself nostalgically longing for the hectic pace of yonder (I kind of miss the puppy days).

    I think pickled onions are a wonderful way of sprucing up your meals and making things a little bit special in the meantime. By the way, I loved that article on casseroles, although I gravitated towards the beet and cheddar one; it was fantastic, but a lot of work. The topping, however, was definitely my favorite part of the recipe.

  7. Ann Says:
    April 28th, 2014 at 6:14 pm

    Jeanne — Thanks for your sweet comment! We just need to get the baby to enjoy quick pickled onions and lime sour cream and then I can cut my cooking marathons in half! ;)

    CK — More hot dogs coming up!

    Lindy — I’ve made them with lemon and they’re still good — different but good. It’s funny, for a long time, I was anti-lime, but I’m slowly coming around again. Lemon remains my favorite scent ever.

    Elizabeth — What a wonderful idea to add these to a salad — and I love that every one asks you about the secret ingredient. I wonder if I should start quick pickling sliced garlic. Yum!

  8. Ann Says:
    April 28th, 2014 at 6:17 pm

    Dad — Thanks for the link! So much useful info there. I especially appreciated the tip that one medium onion = one cup chopped onion. Great rule of thumb!

    Katy — I’m so glad to know that non-hectic meals might be/are in my future… some time :) Ooh, must check out the article for the beet and cheddar casserole. I’m on a bit of a casserole KICK right now :)

  9. kristen @thekaleproject Says:
    April 28th, 2014 at 7:28 pm

    Ann – This was in no way a boring blog post. I love reading about what other women do to balance work, baby and cooking. I find it fascinating and so great to know you do it so well!

  10. Samantha Vérant Says:
    May 6th, 2014 at 6:49 pm

    My onions are pickling as I type this…

  11. Anne Raynaud Says:
    May 9th, 2014 at 12:30 pm

    I have tried both with lime juice and with cider vinegar . Both are good but I think I prefer with lime.
    I don’t understand how people can keep them up to a week in the fridge ……..these pickled onions are so good and addictive that I have difficulty keeping them 24 hours!

  12. Ann Says:
    May 9th, 2014 at 4:30 pm

    Kristen — You are very kind. I’m still finding my way (and sometimes it feels like the weekends are CONSUMED by food preparation) but I too get inspiration from reading other blogs and I’m happy to share!

    Samantha — How’d you eat ‘em? Hope they were great!

    Anne — I have some rice vinegar in the pantry — you’re inspiring me! I agree, they are so good… in fact, I might have to whip up a batch this weekend. PS I owe you an email. Just need to find some time at home to share my meatloaf recipe!

  13. Rebecca Plotnick Says:
    May 18th, 2014 at 8:42 pm

    I love pickled onions but had no idea how easy they were to prepare! Thanks for sharing. Can’t wait to add these to my summer dishes

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