Let pickled cucumbers be key players on the plate

Give pickled cucumbers the credit they deserve. Tucking them beside sandwiches is so unimaginative and such an easy way out. That’s what the lazy would do.

How about getting a little imaginative and using them in a zingy Caesar dressing along with anchovies and minced garlic or in a classic sherry vinaigrette to elevate a simple green salad. Or substitute the sour cukes for capers in a lemon-butter sauce.

Minced pickle can add a good punch to garlic aioli or tartar sauce to be drizzled over a pollock or haddock fillet. And there’s no reason to hold them back from appearing in a classic Hollandaise of eggs yolks and butter to serve with the Sunday brunch staple — eggs Benedict.

There’s more to pickles than just being crunchy and sour. They can be salty, vinegary, spicy and sweet, too. So they help to round out the taste when added to potato salad or savory cornbread muffins, and even chicken roasted with shallots and lemon wedges.

This month, Kraft Heinz came out with two pickle flavors in 16-ounce bottles featuring the Heinz Keystone logo. The Sweet & Spicy Chips have a sweet brine and at the same time gets a kick from crushed red peppers while the Spicy Garlic Chips are packed with garlic slices and red pepper flakes.

As their name suggests, they both have a good amount of bite to them, and so are perfect for a quesadilla filled with burger fixings such as fried onions, tomato and cheese or tossing into a summer slaw with thin strips of broccoli stems, carrots and red peppers or for hot dogs stuffed with wasabi paste and cabbage.

The spicy chips also work magic in a mac ‘n’ cheese loaded with Monterey Jack, cheddar, chevre and prosciutto or in a grilled cheese sandwich layered with tomatoes, grilled onions and aged cheddar or as a topping for toast that includes bechamel sauce cooked with pieces of ham and Gruyere cheese. In each case, the pickled cukes cut through the cheese and assert themselves without shouting.

Pickles have had a place in history dating back to the Mesopotamians, who are believed to be the earliest picklers. It is said that Cleopatra thought that pickles helped her stay healthy and beautiful and Julius Caesar hailed them for bringing strength and energy. The story goes that Napoleon Bonaparte ordered them served at every meal, and some believe that he lost the Battle of Waterloo because the cook forgot the pickles that day.

Christopher Columbus is credited with bringing pickles to the New World, and they have stayed ever since.

Pickled cucumbers have become staples at sandwich shops and burger joints, but instead of having them play second fiddle as an accompaniment or garnish, let them be a key team player.

Broccoli Slaw

Don’t toss the broccoli stems because they work really well in a slaw. The pickle chips and pickle juice help to cut the strong smell from the stems. It’s important to refrigerate the slaw for at least an hour before serving so that the flavors can meld.

1 1/2 cups tender broccoli stems, julienned

1 1/2 cups carrots, julienned

1/2 red pepper, seeded and julienned

1 cup Heinz Sweet & Spicy Pickle Chips, cut into strips

1/4 cup mayonnaise

2 Tbsp. sour cream

1/4 cup pickle juice

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Combine broccoli stems, carrots, red pepper and pickle chips in a large bowl.

In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, sour cream and pickle juice together. Add salt and pepper to taste and mix well.

Add creamy mixture to the vegetables and combine.

Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.

Makes 8 servings.

— Arthi Subramaniam

Pickled Quesadilla

Fill a quesadilla with ingredients that usually accompany a burger, and the result is delicious.

4 whole wheat tortillas

3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided

2 cups fried onions, divided

2 cups Heinz Spicy Garlic Pickle Chips, chopped finely, divided

1/2 cup finely chopped tomatoes, divided

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil, divided

Place a tortilla on a cutting board and scatter 1 1/2 cups of cheese on top.

Then sprinkle 1 cup fried onions, 1 cup pickles and 1/4 cup tomatoes evenly over the cheese.

Place another tortilla over the filling and gently press.

In a large, nonstick pan over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon oil. Place tortilla in the pan and cook until both sides are golden brown.

Remove tortilla from pan and cut into 8 wedges. Repeat the process with the other 2 tortillas.

Makes 16 wedges.

— Arthi Subramaniam

Spicy Pickle Dip

Garlic pickle chips and red pepper have a way of getting along, and when combined with cream cheese, Greek yogurt and hot wing sauce they don’t know when to stop partying.

1 cup Heinz Spicy Garlic Pickle Chips, chopped finely

1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and diced finely

1 package (8-ounce) cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

1 1/2 tsp. hot wing sauce

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 Tbsp. pickle juice

Combine pickles and red pepper in a small bowl.

In another bowl, beat cream cheese, yogurt, cheese and hot wing sauce together with a hand-mixer, until they are well combined. Season with salt and black pepper, and beat for 1 more minute.

Fold in vegetables to the cream cheese mixture. Add pickle juice and mix well. Taste and add more salt and pepper if need be.

Refrigerate 30 minutes. Serve with pita or tortilla chips.

Makes 15 servings.

— Arthi Subramaniam

Wasabi-and-Savoy Cabbage Hot Dog

The original Kraft Heinz recipe called for napa cabbage but I substituted savoy, which is a bit sweeter and more tender, and easier to find in the grocery store.

4 all-beef hot dogs

1 tsp. wasabi paste

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 Tbsp. cider vinegar

1 cup finely shredded savoy cabbage

1 carrot, peeled and finely shredded

1 cup Heinz Spicy Garlic Pickle Chips, chopped, plus more for garnish

4 top-split hot dog buns, toasted

Grill or pan-fry hot dogs until heated through, 5 to 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix wasabi paste, mayonnaise and vinegar until blended; taste and add more vinegar or wasabi as needed. Add cabbage, carrot and chopped pickles and toss to combine.

Place 1 hot dog in each toasted hot dog bun. Top with cabbage mixture and additional pickle chips, if desired.

Serves 4.

— Gretchen McKay adapted Kraft Heinz recipe