In case you haven’t noticed by now, Jody and I both love condiments, the more unfamiliar the better. Every year we have to do a major refrigerator purge because the long term residents have moved off the door or the impractical skinny shelf into the space reserved for more temporary tenants like leftovers or fresh ingredients. This post is about our favorite new condiment, pikliz, a kind of Haitian spicy pickle that masquerades as coleslaw (an error our daughter Roxanne won’t make twice).
The Haitian connection isn’t a fluke. Jody was in Haiti last week to get a close up look at the work of Partners In Health, an organization devoted to establishing sustainable healthcare systems in some of the most impoverished areas of the world. Jody toured living areas, clinics and Mirebelais, a new state-of-the-art hospital that PIH is building. If you’d like to know about PIH, or to find an alternative to the view that nothing has happened in Haiti since the quake, there’s a link at the end of Jody’s notes–they do wonderful work.
As Jody explains below, pikliz was featured at every meal, and since we now have a couple of versions on hand we’ve had plenty of opportunity to experiment with it. First of all I can vouch for how well it goes with fried fish–not an item I ordinarily seek out, but in keeping with Jody’s Haitian experience one we thought we had to try. We also matched it with the avocado salad featured in today’s post–it’s great. ( Just for the record, take away the fancy plate, the sunflower seeds and sprouts, and this salad is essentially the same as what Jody was eating in Haiti.) Pikliz adds a crunchy, spicy component wherever it’s used; recent combos in our house–roast beef and smoked turkey sandwiches, and leftover stir-fried salmon. I have a feeling a pikliz enhanced Ploughman lies somewhere in my future. Enjoy. Ken
Avocado Salad with Pikliz
Serves 4, with lots of leftover pikliz
- 1 small head green cabbage, or half a large head (about 1 1/4 pounds), sliced ¼-inch thick, 6 cups
- 5 small carrots, peeled and grated on the large teeth of a box grater, 1 cup
- 1 small onion, cut into ¼-inch dice, 1/2 cup
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- Juice of 4-5 limes, or 18 Key limes, about 1/2 cup
- Juice of 2 sour or blood oranges, about 3/4 cup
- 1 tablespoon organic vegetable bouillon, optional
- 4 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 2 cloves garlic, grated on a fine microplane
- 1-3 habanero peppers, depending on the size, minced as fine as possible to make 1-3 teaspoons, depending on the amount of heat you like
- 1 tablespoon sugar, optional
- 2 ripe avocados
- 3 radishes, sliced paper thin
- 1 small cucumber, a pickling cucumber works nicely, sliced paper thin
- 1/2 cup sunflower sprouts
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup cilantro leaves
- 1 tablespoon toasted sunflower seeds
- Mix the cabbage, carrot and onion in a large bowl. Add the salt and toss well. Allow to sit 30 minutes in a colander to drain.
- Mix the bouillon with the cider vinegar until dissolved. Add to the cabbage with the citrus juices, the garlic and habanero pepper. Toss well. Allow to macerate 30 minutes to an hour before serving. Taste and add sugar if you think it needs a little sugar. This will depend on the sweetness of the citrus and vinegar.
- To serve, sprinkle the radishes and cucumber slices and sunflower sprouts over 4 salad plates. Cut the avocados in half, remove the pit, and slice each half into 6-7 pieces in the skin. Using a spoon, scoop the avocado slices out of the skin and onto the plate—(half an avocado per plate) Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Spoon the pikliz over the avocado and garnish with cilantro leaves and sunflower seeds.
A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit Haiti to see firsthand how some of the projects connected with Partners In Health. Almost every meal I ate in Haiti was accompanied by pikliz, a kind of pickled coleslaw. Our meals were very simple, usually fried fish or chicken accompanied by a salad, plantains or rice, and pikliz. After I came up with my own version of pikliz back in Massachusetts my daughter Roxanne said she didn’t know what it was, “But it sure is addictive.” I doubt if Haitians aren’t adding it to smoked turkey sandwiches, but who knows?
Koji Nakashima, a PIH doctor whom I met on my trip, taught me a food-related Haitian metaphor with its own connection to pikliz. “You,” he said on hearing my jammed travel schedule, “are like Maggi, you’re in every sauce.” [Creole: W tankou Maggi, W nan tos sos.] Maggi bouillon is a primary seasoning in Haitian cooking. When somebody or something is everywhere, Haitians say it’s “like Maggi, it’s in every sauce.” Since I was traveling all over, I was like Maggi.* Many recipes for pikliz include Maggi. I opted to use Better Than Bouillon organic vegetable base (unlike Maggi, no MSG). But plenty of recipes manage without Maggi so feel free to simply leave it out.
If you’d like to find out more about Partners in Health and the wonderful work they do in Haiti, Rwanda and other parts of the world where people desperately need quality healthcare, check out their website by clicking here.
*Maggi Seasoning really is in every sauce. I took a poll of the Rialto staff after I got back and found out that Maggi is also popular in Jamaica, Peru, Morocco and Nepal.
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