Escabeche of Vegetables

Cold Braised Vegetables in Vinegar Sauce

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A Canon of Vegetables

A Canon of Vegetables

By Raymond Sokolov

Published 2007

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All around the Mediterranean, escabeche is a prized method of preserving food, mainly fish, in a two-part process that goes back at least to the medieval Arabs, who brought it to Europe from wherever they found it. Step one is frying the food in olive oil. Step two is immersing it in a vinegar sauce.

The word “escabeche” may be a linguistic ancestor to ceviche, that New World preparation of raw fish “cooked” heatlessly in acid citrus juice. We know that “escabeche” itself goes back to an Arabic original, hispanicized—or catalanized—and written down in Spain in the fourteenth century. In her article on the subject in Petits Propos Culinaires (No. 20, 1985), Barbara Santich refers to a total of four medieval recipes from the Mediterranean region, all with typically medieval sweet-and-sour flavorings, such as almonds, currants, and dates, to balance the vinegar. But escabeche is no antique relic. Venerable, yes, yet still a staple from Barcelona to Istanbul. Put a grave accent on the second e and the same dish is French. In our day, the dish has evolved away from its origins, losing the sweetness but keeping the vinegar.

Actually, escabeche is less an individual dish than a method, a method that can be applied to a whole range of foods other than fish. Here I offer a sumptuous vegetable escabeche. In our day, the dish has evolved away from its origins, with a bit of nutmeg for a hint of its original medieval spicing. The next day—escabeches are meant to be eaten the next day or later on, and they will taste better for the wait—serve it cold, as a first course. Escabeches are ideal for warm weather, the climate they were invented for long ago, when the role of vinegar was much larger than it is now.


  • 1 lemon, cut in half
  • 8 small artichokes
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 head broccoli, blanched
  • 1 cauliflower, blanched
  • 2 cups olive oil
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and sliced into ¼-inch rings
  • 3 large carrots, scraped and cut into rounds
  • 2 pickled (canned or bottled) jalapeño peppers, seeded and cut into matchstick strips
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 12 black peppercorns
  • 12 oregano sprigs or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon ground or (preferably) grated whole nutmeg
  • 1 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 bottle white wine


  1. Fill a bowl with 2 quarts of cold water. Squeeze half the lemon into it.
  2. Trim the artichokes: Snap off the stems. Cut away the outer skin of the stems and drop in the water. With a knife, level the bottoms of the artichokes. Rub the bottoms with the squeezed lemon half. Cut off the first inch of the tops of the leaves. Pull off the small leaves at the bottom. With a scissors, cut off the points on the remaining whole leaves. As you make these cuts, rub with the lemon.
  3. Slice the artichokes in half lengthwise. Remove the fuzzy chokes and put the cleaned halves into the salted water with the stems.
  4. Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon of the salt and the juice of the remaining half-lemon. Add the squeezed lemon halves and the artichoke halves, and cook for 30 minutes, or until they are just tender. Remove from the water with a slotted spoon and let drain, cut sides down, on a rack.
  5. Cut the broccoli and cauliflower into flowerets.
  6. In a large flameproof earthenware casserole or other heavy large pot, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and sauté over medium heat for a second or two. Then add the onions, carrots, jalapeño pepper strips, bay leaf, peppercorns, chopped (or dried), oregano, nutmeg, and the remaining 2 tablespoons salt. Stir-fry for 2 minutes.
  7. Add the artichokes, broccoli, and cauliflower. Stir-fry for 1 minute. Then pour in the vinegar and white wine. Mix well, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Remove the bay leaf before serving. Serve. Or refrigerate in a tightly covered vessel for as long as a week, before serving at room temperature.

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