We arrived early for our anniversary (32 years!) dinner at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Thirsty after a walk in the field (yes, we pilfered quite a few ripest blackberries), we had enough time for a cocktail at the bar before our seating.
Watching the bartender, I was intrigued by what he was making for an incredibly famous looking gentleman to my left. I inquired. The answer was, “a Gibson with a pickled ramp.” Of course, we had to try this! The drink was a revelation. You can be sure that next spring when I visit my newly identified patch of ramps (sorry, it’s a secret), I will be pickling some to have with my homemade gin.
But how to use this brilliant idea in the meantime? Something seasonal…I started with garlic scapes. Very good. But then I got inspired by the idea of some color. Yes. Red onion. And what could be more appropriate here in Warwick with the onion fields in full flourish here in Pine Island’s Black Dirt?
I think the resulting Gibson was even better than the one at Blue Hill. And certainly prettier. But then, as I do, I got a bit carried away with pickled onion production. It was just a matter of time before I started exploring other uses for my new favorite ingredient. They found their way into a quesadilla, a dip, and quite a few salads. I know you’ll enjoy them as much as we do.
Pickled Red Onions
Makes about ½ cup, multiply as you like.
I think these are so pretty with all the pink color. But feel free to use white or yellow onions. I’m sure they’d be wonderful with a sweet variety, like a Vidalia. This makes what I feel is a perfectly balanced pickle, with plenty of sweetness to offset the sour and salty. But you may vary the type of vinegar, amount of sugar, or salt to your taste.
1 red onion, sliced
½ cup white balsamic or cider vinegar
1 ½ tbs. cane sugar
1 tsp. salt
Place all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to boil over high heat. Use immediately or pack into a jar and refrigerate.
Below, I’ll give you a few recipes to get you started on your pickled onion journey. Further down, you’ll see some more ideas. I’m sure you’ll think of lots of other possibilities and hope you’ll post them for me in comments.
Red Onion Gibson
Makes one cocktail.
1 shot gin, we like Tanqueray, or make your own
½ tsp. dry vermouth
1 tsp. pickling liquid
garnish: pickled onions
Place 1 cup filtered ice cubes in cocktail shaker or jar. Add liquid ingredients. Stir for at least a full minutes. Use a cocktail strainer to pour the drink into a well-chilled, beautiful martini glass. Garnish with a piece of onion. Make another one for a loved one. Clink.
Red Onion Sauce or Dip
This is terrific with Corn Fritters. Or serve alongisde raw or lightly cooked, chilled veggies or chips. Slather it on grilled meats, poultry, veggies, or mushrooms. Serve it with cold or hot steamed or grilled seafood. It is amazing on a turkey or roast beef sandwich or with Crispy Chicken, oven fried potatoes, or Zucchini Fries.
Makes one cup-ish.
1/3 cup mayo
1/3 cup sour cream
juice of ½ lemon or lime
dash hot sauce
1/3 cup drained Pickled Red Onions, minced
salt and pepper, to taste
Mix all ingredients to combine and refrigerate for at least ½ hour to allow flavors to marry.
Quickie Pickled Red Onion Pizza
1 naan, pita or tortilla
1/3 cup cheese of choice
2 tbs. drained Pickled Red Onions
Place the flatbread on the rack of your oven or toaster oven. Top with the cheese. Toast or broil until the cheese is melted. Top with onions.
Bagel, cream cheese, smoked salmon, pickled onion.
Top a simple green salad with feta, walnuts, pickled onion.
Stir into a cold grain, such as barley or farro, for a quick salad. Add pine nuts and raisins.
Toasted pita, hummus, pickled onion.
Top steamed veggies, like asparagus, broccoli, or green beans.
On a steak.
Add to your cheese board.
Garnish a stew.
Garnish a Roasting Pan Supper.
Topping for Turkey Chili. Or Veggie Chili.
Filling with sour cream for a baked white, yellow, or sweet potato.
And, in memory of my dear dad: whitefish salad on a toasted raisin bagel. Add onions. Insist that the sweetness of the bagel works perfectly with smoked fish and everyone must try it.
Blog note: The gorgeous watercolor above was painted by my amazing daughter and favorite artist, Megan McGrath. Thanks, Meg!