I know this sounds really weird and potentially gross, but bear with me on this one. I promise it is far from whatever you’re imagining right now. Unless you are imagining something totally delicious. In which case… right on.
When I was living with my housemates in between our second and fourth years of university, we had upwards of six jars of pickles in our fridge at any given time. It was just one of those things we had way too much of, and to top it off, one of my housemates couldn’t bring herself to throw out the pickle juice when the jars were empty. So, she had the brilliant idea of using the liquid to cook her vegetables in, and a legendary, inexpensive, and flavourful dish was born.
By now, I think it’s safe to say that if you don’t like pickles, you’ve realized that this dish may not be for you. Pickles have a very distinctive, vinegary, dilly taste. I happen to love that, but a lot of people feel this way about pickles. I can respect that.
However, if you are part of the “pickles are cucumbers soaked in deliciousness” camp, then this recipe might just blow your mind.
Pickle Juice Stir Fry
red lentils (about 1/3 cup, dry, per person)
vegetables of your choosing for stir frying – you want to have a 2:1 ratio of veggies to lentils overall
(I usually do a combination that includes carrots, celery, onions, garlic, broccoli, red cabbage, green beans, and greens like spinach or kale, but you can literally use anything you want!)
approximately 1/3 cup of pickle juice
extra dill, if you’re a dill fanatic
1/4 cup of ready-made tomato sauce, or more if you like tomatoes lots
crumbled feta cheese, if you want a non-vegan version
1. Heat some olive oil in a large pan or wok at medium heat.
2. Wash your vegetables and cut them into bite-sized pieces. When the oil is hot, add the vegetables and stir to coat them with oil. If my stir fry includes onions, I usually allow them to cook on their own for a few minutes before adding the rest of the vegetables.
3. In a pot, bring water to a boil. Once boiling, add your red lentils and allow them to cook at medium heat for approximately 20 minutes. If your lentils are ready before your vegetables, simply cover them and place the pot on an unheated element until serving time. Only drain the lentils immediately before serving.
4. Once your vegetables are about halfway cooked, turn the heat up to medium-high and add the pickle juice. Cover the vegetables and allow them to absorb the juice. This will create an environment perfect for steaming the veggies.
5. When most of the pickle juice has cooked off, check the vegetables for tenderness. If they need to cook for longer, add a bit of water to continue the steaming process. Once the veggies are to your liking, turn the heat back down to medium and add the tomato sauce. Stir well and season with dill to taste if desired. Allow the sauce to heat through, then remove the pan from the heat.
6. In a shallow, wide bowl, spoon a generous portion of drained red lentils. Cover with your stir fried pickle vegetable mixture and top with feta cheese if desired.
This post is dedicated to Marlaina, for her wacky ideas, and to Sarah, who has been begging me to give her this recipe since I made it for her.