One of the things I like the most about cooking is transforming a charmless, underwhelming ingredient into something delicious. That’s why I enjoy pickling and marinating so much: you start with a blah vegetable—cucumbers, say, or cabbage or mushrooms--add some ratio of salt, sugar and vinegar, wait a while, and end up with that briny/tangy flavor that only pickling can produce. Magic!
In the past few months I’ve made pickled mushrooms, this marinated vegetable salad and gravlax (as well as pickles and sauerkraut in years past). I’m pleased to add turshi to my pickling repertoire. I first learned about turshi—Armenian pickled vegetables—from Anya von Bremzen’s cookbook Please to the Table. I’ve had mixed luck with Anya’s recipes so I hesitated to try it, but then reader and commenter Victoria Frolova kindly offered to share her grandmother’s version. I used bits and pieces from both recipes to come up with my own. It tastes a lot like the marinated vegetable salad mentioned above, but crunchier and spicier.
This recipe is based on one liter of liquid. You will need about 3 large carrots, a medium head of cauliflower, 2 large red peppers, 2 or 3 celery stalks, a large onion, 5 cloves of garlic, a bunch of herbs like dill and parsley, kosher salt, sugar, bay leaves, hot chili peppers, peppercorns and maybe some vinegar. Slice carrots and celery into matchsticks, separate the cauliflower into florets, peel and cut the onion into rounds, cut peppers into strips, and mince the garlic. You could also add zucchini, tomatoes and cucumbers, sliced into rounds.
Bring a pan of water to a boil and blanch the carrots and cauliflower for about two minutes. Drain, then layer the vegetables in a large glass jar with garlic, chili peppers and herbs.
For the marinade, bring a liter of water to a boil and add 6 teaspoons of kosher salt, 8 teaspoons of sugar, a couple of bay leaves and a small handful of peppercorns. Let the marinade simmer a little until the sugar and salt dissolve. Victoria suggests adding a tablespoon of white vinegar at this point if you want a tangier flavor, which I did. Cool the marinade for five minutes, then pour it over the vegetables and seal the jar. Keep turshi in the fridge; it should be done in about two weeks (mine took two and a half). Start tasting after a week or so.