Olia Hercules’s fourth cookbook, Home Food: 100 Recipes to Comfort and Connect, is personal. Her mom’s crisp yet tender potatoes. Her husband’s beets and feta. Her friend’s family’s octopus with garlic. And this wintery, tangy salad—which could go with any of the above.
Like the best home cooking, it is barely a recipe, ready to bend to whatever ingredients are around, forgiving if measurements are eyeballed, and happy to hang out in the fridge for days. In this excerpt, Hercules tells us how to make it.
This is a very good salad-pickle that works with a whole bunch of different crunchy vegetables and fruits. Use a combination of any of the produce suggested below. It is good in so many things: inside a pita bread with grilled chicken or cheese, or as a side dish with a rich dumpling stew.
And yes, raw parsnip, rutabaga, and pumpkin are a thing. This is also a good way to use up those tough outer layers of fennel that we usually discard; just slice or shave them as finely as you can and then cut into fine matchsticks. Anything fibrous such as this benefits from being cut as finely as possible, so it becomes easily digestible.
For the spices, you can just choose any one of them or go for the lot. I recommend using them all, as it makes this taste extra delicious.
Easy, Crunchy Salad-Pickle
Place 1 Tbsp. coriander seeds, 1 Tbsp. caraway seeds, 1 Tbsp. fennel seeds—all optional—in a dry frying pan over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until they turn a shade darker and smell toasted. Immediately tip into a mortar and crush them with the pestle.
All you need to do now is to cut your vegetables or fruits into fine matchsticks; the technique is called julienne and it’s a very good thing to do if you want to practice your knife skills. If you don’t, but you still want to eat this, you can use a special julienne peeler that produces long strands. Or maybe if you have a dusty spiralizer tucked in a cabinet, its time has come! Cut a heaping 1 lb. (500g) apple, beet, carrot, celeriac, fennel, green mango, kohlrabi, parsnip, pear, pumpkin, and/or rutabaga.
Mix 5 Tbsp. sherry vinegar (or another flavorful vinegar) with 1 Tbsp. honey and ½ Tbsp. salt in a large non-reactive bowl or other container and stir; the vinegar will dissolve them both easily. Then add 2 garlic cloves, finely grated and the toasted and crushed seeds. Stir in the fruit or vegetable matchsticks.
You can use this straight away or you can stick it in the fridge and let it pickle for a few days or even weeks. I sometimes drizzle it with a little unrefined sunflower or sesame oil and scatter on some toasted sesame seeds and cilantro leaves. But it is good without any embellishments too.
Having a jar of this in the fridge can save many potentially lackluster lunches. Stuff it into a pita with leftover roast chicken or veggies, or grilled halloumi or feta. Top a dal or bean stew with a small handful.
You can also add it to broths: Caramelize some chopped onions in a pan, then add a handful of this pickle and cook down until soft. Put the mixture into a meat or vegetable stock to add a welcome sour note.
Reprinted with permission from Home Food: 100 Recipes to Comfort and Connect by Olia Hercules, published by Interlink Books.