There’s a wonderful restaurant in San Francisco where folks come from far away lands to enjoy the classics …Caesar Salad, Roast Chicken with Warm Bread Salad and the most amazing House-Ground Grass-Fed Hamburger on Grilled Rosemary Foccacia served with Zuni Pickles. The name of the place is Zuni Café and we’re here to talk about their pickles. They are served with every burger and sandwich. On their own, they are on the sweet side with just a hint of tartness and are somewhat flimsy. They are just strips of zucchini, after all. But …layer them on your cheeseburger or chicken salad sandwich and they are magical.
I know. We are talking pickles here. Your first thought is …I need run to the market to get some Kirby cukes. Forget about those cucumbers. With some luck, you’ll have some homegrown zucchini hangin’ around looking for a purpose. Not the giant baseball-bat sized zucchini …for this one, you’ll need the average not-too-fat zucchini.
I hope you have a mandoline that you can use on this prep since the zucchini must be cut in uniform thin strips. You can cut the strips by hand, but really …you must have a steady and precise technique. Once the zucchini and onion are sliced, they’ll hang out in a salty cold water brine. After about one hour, the zucchini will have softened and will be ready to absorb the flavorful vinegar brine.
While the veggies are chillin’ out, prepare the vinegar mixture. It is cooked for a short time and needs some time to cool down before adding it to the zucchini strips.
This recipe will yield three pints of delicious pickles. Always use glass jars to hold the goodness.
zuni café zucchini pickles
Adapted from The Zuni Café Cookbook
- 3 medium sized zucchini (about 1 1/2 pounds)
- 1 small onion (about 3-4 ounces)
- 2 tablespoons sea salt
- 2 cups cider vinegar
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
- 1 1/2 teaspoons gently crushed mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
Wash and trim the zucchini. Slice them lengthwise into 1/16-inch-thick slices on a mandoline. Slice the onion very thinly as well. Combine the zucchini and onion in a large shallow glass or ceramic dish. Sprinkle the salt evenly over top and gently toss to distribute. Add several ice cubes and cold water to cover. Stir to dissolve the salt.
Let the zucchini and onion soak in the salty brine. After about 1 hour, the zucchini strips should be slightly softened. Drain and pat dry.
Meanwhile, combine the vinegar, sugar, dry mustard, mustard seeds, and turmeric in a small saucepan. Simmer for 3 minutes. Set aside until just warm to the touch. (If the brine is too hot, it will cook the vegetables and make the pickles soft instead of crisp)
Transfer the zucchini and onion slices to three one-pint glass jars and pour over the cooled brine. Seal tightly and refrigerate for at least a day before serving to allow the flavors to mellow and permeate the zucchini. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.