We've all encountered, and possibly even served, a boring crudité platter. As a vegetarian and gluten-free guest and host, I've had my fair share of raw broccoli and carrot sticks while other party guests indulged in more interesting hors d'oeuvres. But these pickled baby carrots? These ones with the zingy bite that will be ready in just a couple of hours? You might want to double the recipe.
When making refrigerator pickles, the longer they marinate, the more the flavors will develop. In reality, however, one doesn't always plan ahead. Perhaps you're throwing a last-minute party, or you've been busy all week, or you suddenly realize your relish tray needs a little something else. That's okay in the case of these carrots, which have a flavorful brine with toasted spices and fresh garlic. Even if you only have an hour to let the carrots marinate, they will still be delicious — crisp and tangy with a hint of sweetness. (Of course, if you want to make them ahead, that's fine. They'll last a month or longer in the fridge.)
Note that the baby carrots I'm referring to are the young carrots often sold with greens still attached — not the bite-size packaged kind. Using slender carrots with a little bit of the green on top is an easy way to add elegance to your hors d'oeuvres tray, and the flavor is usually sweeter, too.
Quick-Pickled Baby Carrots
1 pound farmers' market baby carrots
1 cup water, plus more for blanching the carrots
1 cup white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons honey, or to taste
1 bay leaf
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted
1 teaspoon mustard seeds, toasted
Trim and peel the carrots and cut them in half lengthwise.
Bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Add the carrots and blanch until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Immediately drain and run under cold water. Transfer the carrots to a bowl (or jars if you plan to keep the carrots for longer).
Combine 1 cup of water with the vinegar, salt, honey, bay leaf, garlic, coriander, and mustard seeds in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve the salt and honey. Pour over the carrots.
Let cool to room temperature and then refrigerate in an airtight container for at least an hour and up to a month.
Substituting regular carrots: To use regular-size carrots, cut them into sticks about 3 to 4 inches long and 1/2 inch wide.
Substituting spices: Feel free to substitute an equal amount of other toasted spices such as cumin seeds, dill seeds, fennel seeds, anise seeds, or celery seeds. Add heat with a pinch of red pepper flakes or a few bruised ginger slices.
To make a side dish: For a side dish, toss the pickled carrots with extra virgin olive oil and fresh chopped herbs such as dill, fennel, mint, parsley, or thyme.
(Images: Emily Ho)