Exhilarate your favorite dishes with the gusto of spicy Escabeche, quick Mexican pickled vegetables.
I don’t remember becoming aware of Escabeche – it always appeared at my favorite Mexican restaurant, alongside the salsa or pico de gallo. Big bowls of crunchy pickled jalapenos, carrots, and onion were standard and expected fare at numerous local Mexican restaurants where I used to live.
And then I moved.
Escabeche on the restaurant table was one of the causalities of moving to a different country. But as I soon realized, I didn’t need to leave it for good when it’s so easy to make at home.
What is Escabeche?
Escabeche is often associated with dishes that contain fish or meat, but the pickled flavor is what sets it apart. In my Mexican restaurant big bowl experience and for what I want to set on my plant-based table, it’s those spicy pickled vegetables we're interested in.
In this case, Escabeche is about a cooking method – quick pickling, rather than a specific main dish of sorts. That’s what gives it the versatility and the vegetables you choose puts your stamp of individuality on it.
Quick pickling basics
Quick pickling, also known as refrigerator pickling, is a process of adding an acid, (mostly vinegar) to vegetables. The great news about quick pickling is that you don’t need to engage in a process of canning or heaps of vegetables. You can use any vegetables you like in combination with an acid and the option of a sweetener and spices or herbs.
The best kinds of vinegar to use for this process are the lighter ones like rice vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or champagne vinegar. You can even use plain old white distilled vinegar. he acidity of vinegar inhibits the growth of bacteria and foods stored in vinegar will be able to last much longer sometimes even many years without refrigeration.
When it comes to quick pickles, the vinegar you select can have an impact on the overall flavor of your picked vegetables. White vinegar has a more distinct and harsh flavor and apple cider will have a fruiter and more subtle taste.
Clear, white rice vinegar has a very delicate flavor and although it’s mostly associated with Chinese food, I find it a great quick pickling option. If you want something that is naturally a bit sweeter, a wine vinegar such as champagne can also be wonderful.
And although Balsamic is fantastic for reductions and delicious over salads or just tomatoes, it’s not great for quick pickles. That said, white Balsamic can be used, but you’ll want to adjust or eliminate the agave syrup or it will be too sweet.
Besides vinegar, you can make your special brand of pickled vegetables by adding fresh or dry herbs or spices. When it comes to Escabeche, I love using oregano. Now I used to swear that you needed fresh oregano to make this perfect, but after several batches of this, I will admit that my preference is using it dried.
My suspicion on the fresh versus dried oregano front is related to the fact that what I have available fresh isn’t all that fresh. When dried oregano rejuvenates in rice vinegar, the flavor shines through. If you happen to be growing oregano or you can get it super fresh, then, by all means, use it. You will likely want to add more of the fresh as dried has a more concentrated flavor.
Whether spicy Mexican or just plain pickled red onions, my quick pickling process always has two things in common. The acid (vinegar) and a sweetener. Agave syrup is a great addition to the pickling dish as it isn’t too sweet, and the color doesn’t impact the entire dish. You can also use a lighter rice syrup (if you can find it).
Quick pickling is just made for crunchy fresh veggies, but in my world, it isn’t Mexican unless there are jalapenos. Carrots make a great pickle because they stay crunchy even after a few days. Cauliflower, radish, jicama or turnip are other options. Once you have the quick pickle bug, you may discover all sorts of options at farmer's market, store, or even your garden if you are fortunate enough to have one. Just note though, we are huge fans of pickled red onions, but red onions are showoffs, so unless you are going for pink Escabeche, you’ll want to avoid using them for this recipe.
Causalities come down to cause and effect. I never believed that when I moved and left my favorite Mexican restaurants or gave up eating unhealthy foods that the effect would be abandoning my favorite flavors and foods. The law of causality the law of consequences. If you make a genuine effort to achieve something, results occur.
Some efforts like making quick-pickled vegetables at home are simple. Some of those bigger goals require more time and perseverance. But if your intentions and action are aligned with the bigger picture of where you want to go then the only thing to do is to keep stepping forward, make small achievable changes, daily 1% improvement. Nourish your goals and yourself well. Peace.Print