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Pickled Cucumbers and Red Peppers

Pickled Cucumbers and Red Peppers
T. Susan Chang for NPR /

I learned to make these from my Aunty Sen. This is fast pickling — fresh, tart and sweet rather than slow, briny and sour. It's dead simple. You just salt the cucumbers for 15 minutes, until they weep. Then console them overnight in sweetened vinegar, along with the peppers. Aunty Sen says the amount of time is pretty flexible. You could take as much as two days to salt and soak them if you wanted. Then you eat them — a few or, if you can't stop yourself, a lot. That's pretty flexible, too.

4 servings

4 small cucumbers (preferably pickling or Kirby)

1 sweet red bell pepper

1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 large or 2 medium garlic cloves,

2 chunks of ginger, each about 3/4-inch-long, unpeeled, smashed

1 or 2 small dried red chilies. (Snip the ends and shake out and discard the seeds if you want to reduce the heat.)

1 teaspoon sesame oil

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Peel the cucumbers, seed and chop into 3/4-inch chunks. Smash them lightly with the side of a cleaver or chef's knife. Sprinkle the 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt over them and let stand in a colander for at least 15 minutes or up to an hour. This removes some water.

Seed and core the pepper and chop into 3/4-inch chunks.

In a wok or heavy skillet, gently heat the garlic, ginger and chilies in the oil, until the oil takes on their flavor but before any of them start to brown, about 3 or 4 minutes. Drop the salted cucumber into the flavored oil, stir and turn off the heat. Add the red peppers, sesame oil, sugar and vinegar. Salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate (preferably in a sealed plastic bag) at least 1 hour or up to 2 days.

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