“It took Vikings many centuries to create the smorgasbord. It brings you the fish of the sea, the meats of the range… the fruits of the land and the wings of the sky in a gracious gesture of hospitality and welcomes you to the meal that follows….” – William C. Speidel Jr., You Can’t Eat Mount Ranier
I went to New York in March.
I had planned on attending the annual IACP Conference, as I do every year, and was invited to do a book event with my extremely talented friend Johanna Kindvall. I immediately said yes to her idea of doing a potluck dinner with a dozen or so friends, each person making and bringing something from one of our 2 cookbooks, because I am in awe of Johanna, besides just wanting to spend some time with her. I had recently purchased a copy of her first solo cookbook Smörgåsbord: Art of Swedish Breads and Savory Treats and thought the idea would be great fun.
And now I can continue with my story.
We sent out invitations and were overjoyed to find that many friends wanted to join us. I went to the party with my friend Robin Zachary, both a professional tableware, props, and food stylist as well as contributing Home Editor at Bridal Guide Magazine. We made my Moroccan-Spiced Orange Slices in Orange Blossom Water, a refreshing, light yet astonishing dessert from Orange Appeal.
Johanna made 2 sorts of bread from her book as well as Smoked Fish Salad with Horseradish, Herring Bites, and Chicken Salad with Crispy Onions.
photo Johanna Kindvall
We gathered around her table in the twilight of a Brooklyn Tuesday in the glow of the first days of spring. We spent a luxurious few minutes on her terrace admiring the view before assembling in the kitchen around the island counter to begin preparations. One wall of her long, slim dining room is covered with black on cream illustrations, a striking mural by Brooklyn artist Katie Merz all about food, facing her modern, elegant kitchen, a Swedish designer’s dream.
We scooped fish spread onto thin slices of brown bread, topping each with a spring of dill; we cut chocolate orange marble cake into chunks and aligned them on a serving platter. We welcomed guests, reheating Orange Rosemary Wedding Day Chicken and scooping Beet Salad into a bowl. Happily, the guests were an even mix of my friends and hers, the buffet an even spread of dishes from my book and hers.
An illustrator’s table plan
And I fell in love on this singular evening of fantastic food and fabulous friends. I fell in love with Johanna’s Quick Pickled Vegetables, a pungent, vinegary concoction of paper-thin slices of carrots, fennel bulbs, and cucumbers. “I made it this morning,” Johanna explained. I swooned.
Hotel high season is quickly advancing and I am trying to become accustomed, once again, to long, full days, too many guests for breakfast, and the pace and rhythm of tourist season. Up at 5:15 (if the cats don’t begin scratching at the door at 4:00 which they usually do), down to work at 6:30 then nonstop until 11:00 (for now) or 12:00 or even a bit later once we get into full swing. Afternoons are for down time. Or shopping for the hotel. Or making jam. And writing. So cooking, needless to say, and as much as I would love to, is not high on my list.
Which is why this recipe brings me such joy. It’s quick to put together and ready to eat after only a few hours chilling. I love the tangy, refreshing vegetables, tender yet still with a bit of bite and, like any pickles or pickled vegetables, are great eaten with roasted meats, salads as well as egg, tuna, or chicken salads, on sandwiches, with cheese or pâté…. And they are so addictive I’ll be making them over and over again, keeping the jar in my refrigerator always filled.
I use sweet carrots, fennel bulbs, and cucumber, slicing the vegetables as thinly as possible. Although the recipe calls for distilled white vinegar (5% to a maximum of 6%) blended with water, I used white wine vinegar and it’s perfect, although I could have added a bit more water, maybe a total of 1 cup (250 ml) total to dilute it slightly more. Johanna’s recipe makes one 28-ounce (830 ml) jar.
- ¾ cup (180 ml distilled white vinegar (5%) or white wine vinegar
- ¾ cup (180 ml) water or up to 1 cup (250 ml)
- ¼ cup (50 g) sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 bay leaves
- 10 white peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
- 1 carrot, thinly sliced lengthwise
- 1 yellow beet or 1 cucumber, thinly sliced into rounds
- ½ medium-sized fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced
- 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
- 5 sprigs thyme
- To make the brine, mix together the vinegar, water, sugar, salt, bay leaves, peppercorns, and mustard seeds in a small saucepan.
- Bring the brine to a boil and stir until the sugar and salt are completely dissolved. Set aside and let cool completely.
- In a clean glass jar with a sealable lid, layer the thinly sliced carrots, beets or cucumbers, fennel, and celery with the thyme.
- When the brine is cool, pour it over the vegetables then cover the jar. If the brine does not cover the vegetables, that's okay - just shake the vegetables gently to distribute the brine.
- Refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours before serving, shaking or tossing the vegetables gently in the brine.
- Store the vegetables in the refrigerator. They are best eaten fresh, so consume them within a couple of days.