Back in February, I found a lot to like on Lucca Cafe’s new bar snacks menu, plus a little bonus on the side. Literally. On the side of the tri-tip sliders’ plate were the most delicious pickle slices—kind of sweet, kind of spicy, aromatic, crunchy—pickle-wise, these really had it all. Cathy Pavlos, Lucca chef and co-owner, calls them Lucca House Bread-and-Butter Pickles, and was nice enough to scale her restaurant-size recipe for the home kitchen, to share with Taste of Orange County readers. Chef Pavlos said the restaurant sometimes uses okra instead of cucumbers, which I can see would also be delicious. These are refrigerator pickles, so no hauling out the canning equipment, and other than briefly heating the brine mixture, there’s no cooking at all, in fact; slice, soak, drain, cover with cooled brine, refrigerate overnight before serving—with everything.
Lucca House Bread-and-Butter Pickles
(Makes 2 quarts)
2 tablespoons sea salt
2 quarts water
2 pounds pickling cucumbers, scrubbed, sliced ¼-inch thick
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
2 cups cider vinegar
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 bay leaves
1-1/2 tablespoons crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
1 teaspoon celery seed
5 to 6 garlic cloves, peeled
Dissolve 2 tablespoons salt in 2 quarts water.
Place sliced cucumber, bell pepper, and onion in large non-reactive bowl, cover completely with salted water. Soak 2 to 4 hours at room temperature, stirring occasionally.
While vegetables are soaking, make brine: In medium saucepan combine vinegar, sugar, spices, and garlic; bring to boil, turn off heat, and allow to cool.
After soaking, drain vegetables well and place in 2-quart non-reactive container. Cover with cooled brine, and refrigerate.