It's None of Your Onions

Suffice to say the crazy August sun must have finally got to me: and fried my very last brain cell clean off my frontal lobe. I’ve been doing things that are so out of character lately. If I were counseling a friend, I’d rationalize that by making these decisions she is challenging herself. That her actions mean she is alive and among the living. But mostly, it’s just been unsettling.

I took a long, hard look at the recent path I was on and wondered if it was helping me get to where I wanted to go. The answer was, no, it was not: unless I wanted a vacation in a nice white room with padded walls.

I needed something to redirect me. I needed some food I could believe in. Something with bite, that could hold up to 'the crazy.' Pickled peppers and onions did the trick, that and booking an impromptu trip to Paris.

The French know how to eat and—not surprisingly—how to live. They have known for a very long time that food and life are both better when intertwined. And so it comes as no surprise that their idioms often involve food.

Take their expression, c'est pas tes oignons; it’s literal translation: “it’s none of your onions.” What those crazy French folk are saying is it’s really none of your business, if you please, merci beaucoup.

Only the French can make sounding huffy sexy. And only Boston-based chef, Barbara Lynch, can do the same for a recipe for pickled onions. You may be saying, but there is decidedly nothing sexy about pickled onions. Oh, but there is. These pickled onions are fantastic underneath poached eggs, partnered with cured meats, sandwiched between slices of pan integral; they are even seductive eaten straight from the jar while standing barefoot in your kitchen.

Trust me. The woman can pickle. Her bread and butter pickles appear with many of her entrees at B & G Oysters. If you need further convincing of her culinary prowess, Bon Appetit recently voted her new restaurant Menton (named after a small French village, naturally) as one of the top 10 best new restaurants in the country. But what I love most about Barbara is that she does not mind her own onions in the kitchen.

Some chefs can be hesitant to give out recipes. I recently saw her give a talk and she freely, happily—with abandon even—gave out not one, not two, but nine recipes to everyone in the audience. There will definitely be more Barbara Lynch recipes to come, so be sure to thank her for not minding her pickled onions if you see her.

As for me, the onions and hot peppers at the farmers’ markets are FANTASTIC right now, so I’ll be pickling and planning my trip to Paris through September. Truth is, this is one crazy ride and sometimes the rollercoaster goes off the tracks. But you have to give yourself permission to let it happen and then know how to get yourself back: and maybe even tell people to mind their own onions about it, though perhaps not if they are pickled.

Pickled Peppers and Onions
Adapted from Barbara Lynch's recipe for pickled onions in Stir

3/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp sugar
6-8 pink peppercorns
Pinch anise seed
A few sprigs of oregano
1 large white onion
1 hot pepper

Heat vinegar, salt and sugar in a sauce pan; add peppercorns, anise and oregano and bring to a boil. Slice the peppers and onions and place in a heat-proof bowl. Pour hot vinegar mixture over peppers and onions and let sit until it comes to room temperature. Refrigerate.

Makes about 2 cups.

At first it seems like there isn't enough vinegar for the peppers and onions, but once they sit overnight they give up some water and swim happily in the vinegar. They also stay nice and crisp.

Lynch recommends saving the vinegar to use as a salad dressing or marinade base. She is right. It is killer poured over tomatoes and cucumber slices and tossed with a little oil.

I used a lime-green hot pepper solely because of how it looked (it's okay, you can judge). I think it made the mixture (and life) even better.

You could use a mandoline and thinly slice the onions (which is what Lynch recommended). I was feeling lazy and a little troubled and so a mandoline was out of the question.


  1. These pickled veg would be great mixed in with a salad too! By the way, can you take me to Paris with you? No but seriously, I am tenatively planning a trip to France for within the next year, and would be interested in your recs. Have you been before? Perhaps we can meet for a coffee some time and we can chat about Paris and French food. :-)

  2. Thanks for sharing this! I had some of her pickles with my lobster roll at B&G and they are seriously addictive!

  3. That is a wonderful expression, isn't it? Though I think the Brits manage a certain huffiness with "none of your beeswax." :)

    These pickled onions sound fabulous!

  4. This sounds sooo good!! I can think of lots of things this would be good for. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  5. i won't lie--normally, a french accent annoys the heck out of me. it just sounds so hoity-toity. the one exception is eric ripert. all i can say is SWOON. :)

  6. I love pickled onions! And the saying. That's great. How fun (i mean, lucky!!!) to take a trip to Paris. I hope to go someday!

  7. Since you're going to Paris, can we please get a macaron recipe? Certainly there must be some good life lessons to be learned from making macarons.

  8. I wish I knew where to buy that picture of the sailboat! I found the image on weheartit.com.

  9. Jess: This will be my first trip to Paris. I go in October, I say we definitely meet up after that to debrief!

    Fun and Fearless: I have not had the B&G lobster roll ... is it better than Neptune Oyster's?! I count on you for the lowdown on all the Boston restaurants. ;)

    Adele: Hope you are settling in! Ha, yes I found myself muttering it's none of your beeswax throughout the writing of this post!

    Poppies: Bummer about that picture ... I was hoping you had taken it!

    Grace: I saw Eric Ripert give a talk in Boston last year. He is even more charming in person, if you can imagine that!

    Otehlia; So glad you stopped by! You can never go wrong with pickled onions, can you?!?

    E: Yes, a macaron recipe is definitely in order! Before or after Paris, that is the question ...

  10. There's a cafe near me that serves something very similar with their grilled cheese panini...it always tastes wonderful. However, yours might be even better as you added pink pepper...YUM

  11. Bravo! That was outstanding. I was at church with my mom decades ago when a guy sat down in front of us. She leaned over to my dad and said, "Il a un tête à claque." I understood everything except claque and I had to ask. It loosely translates to a person that looks/is so obnoxious he has a head you just want to hit. Anyhow, just another example of something that sounds wonderful, but isn't so much so.

  12. Pickled onions are a favorite of mine and this recipe sounds wonderful. I love the food and recipes you feature here. I'll be back often. I hope you are having a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

  13. Crazy jealous of your Paris trip! Glad I stumbled upon your blog...there's tons of great recipes here :)

  14. Indie.Tea: Grilled cheese panini with pickled onions? Sounds divine.

    Mom Chef: Ha, that is a great--and an odd saying! You are so right though, it sounds almost inviting to hear ...

    Mary: Thanks for visiting; it's wonderful to have you!

    Baking.serendipity: Hope you stumble back! If only I could somehow write Paris off as a blog expense ...

  15. these are SO GOOD! the taste reminds me of a pizza parlor ;)