I got a new cookbook for Christmas: Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean, by one of my favorite chefs, Ana Sortun of the restaurant Oleana in Cambridge, MA.  I love Greek and Turkish food, and have already dog-eared a dozen recipes to try in the coming weeks.  I made these simple pickles, as Sortun suggests, to accompany her spinach falafel.  The combination of crisp, garlicky pickle and creamy, earthy chickpeas and greens is a refreshing spin on traditional winter ingredients.  Lightweights, beware:  these pickles are bracingly sour, pungent, and intense.

Pickled Pears

Adapted from Spice

Yield: 2 quarts pickles

pickledpears22 lb. firm pears (I like d’anjou), peeled, cored, and sliced 1/2″ thick

1/2 c. kosher salt

1 c. white wine or champagne vinegar

2 bay leaves

1 tbsp. brown mustard seeds

2 tbsp. black peppercorns

1/2 c. whole peeled garlic cloves, lightly crushed

1 bunch thyme

Combine salt, vinegar, herbs, spices and 8 cups of water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.  Put pears in a large, nonreactive bowl and pour brine over them.  Cover the bowl with a clean dishtowel or a piece of plastic wrap (poke holes in plastic to let steam out), and let sit at room temperature for 3 hours.  Refrigerate pears in brine.  Pickles are ready to eat after 24 hours, and keep in the fridge for 2 weeks.  Best served at room temperature.