Every now and then the pickle fisherman descends two brave fingers into the cold and emerges, triumphant, with a big one. It offers him a dull green stare, neither fearful nor defiant. The pickle accepts its fate.
In a previous life, the pickle knew warm days and cool, smooth skin, as a cucumber. Just as the caper was once nasturtium and man was once amoeba. Plausible, and yet astonishing. To those estranged from evolution or brining, it's hard to fathom the fresh young vegetable in its salt-cured immortal form.
It's good to know that there exists a middle way: the quick pickle. This approach moves from juicy vegetable to crunchy side dish in a matter of minutes. It retains its refreshing cucumber flavor. Yet, through salting and squeezing, emerges transformed into a bracing pickle, standing in crisp contrast to charred meat or hearty sandwich. It's fast, refreshing, and frank. And takes no fishing skills to land.
Prep: 45 minutes
1 pound cucumbers, peels on, thinly sliced crosswise
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
2 teaspoons vinegar
Set a colander in the sink. Heap in cucumber slices. Sprinkle on salt. Rub salt into cucumbers.
Let cucumbers sit. Toss and squeeze every few minutes to release as much liquid as possible, until little remains, about 30 minutes. Rinse under cold water. Blot dry with a kitchen towel.
Heap cucumbers in a bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients. Enjoy. These quickie pickles are best munched immediately; they don't keep.
Adapted from "How to Cook Everything" by Mark Bittman.
Leah Eskin is a Tribune Newspapers special contributor. Email her at email@example.com.