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Vivian Howard's Red Weapons

Vivian Howard's Red Weapons

In Vivian Howard's book This Will Make It Taste Good she describes her favorite condiments as "flavor heroes" and offers up creative and easy ways to add kicks of flavor to almost any dish. Red Weapons are spicy, pickled tomatoes that are balanced with vinegar, brown sugar, jalapeños, and aromatics. The addition of cayenne, turmeric, cumin and mustard seeds really take the flavor of this bright, punchy mixture to the next level. The best part? It's multiple condiments in one! Use the oil that rises to the top of the jar to saute shrimp, use the brine in a vinaigrette, chop up the tomatoes and jalapeño and stir into guacamole. This recipe is simple, flavorful yet complex and with endless possibilities...and that's what makes Vivian our flavor hero. 

Yield: 2 quarts


2 pounds plum tomatoes, cut into quarters lengthwise
1 bunch scallions, sliced thin
5 jalapeños, sliced into thin rings
3 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
3 tablespoons minced garlic
1½ tablespoons Spicewalla Yellow or Brown Mustard Seeds
1½ tablespoons Spicewalla Cumin Powder
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
1½ teaspoons Spicewalla Cayenne Chilli Powder
1½ teaspoons Spicewalla Turmeric
½ cup unseasoned rice wine vinegar
¾ cup white wine vinegar
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
1½ cups extra-virgin olive oil


  1. Put your tomatoes in a large, wide, heatproof bowl that is plenty large enough to hold all the ingredients. I like to assemble and start to “pickle” my weapons there on the counter, letting their flavors marry as they cool down. Then, once they’re mixed together and have reached room temperature, I transfer them to smaller containers suitable for the fridge. (This recipe is sized to just barely fit into two quart-size mason jars, but you may have a little extra. While you can try to pull it all together directly in the jars, that might just be a big mess waiting to happen.)
  2. In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, bring all the ingredients except for the tomatoes and the olive oil to a boil over medium heat. Let it boil for 1 minute. Then add the olive oil and bring back to a boil. Immediately pour over the tomatoes in the big bowl, pressing them down to make sure they are submerged.
  3. Let the tomatoes and the liquid cool to room temperature without the aid of an ice bath or anything to speed the process along. If you’ve got room in your fridge, the big bowl can go in there. But if the weapons sit out at room temperature overnight, that’s totally fine. The more slowly they cool down, the more quickly they will pickle. Once they’ve cooled, transfer the weapons to jars and refrigerate for a minimum of 3 days or up to 3 months.

Recipe from Vivian Howard’s “This Will Make It Taste Good” (Little, Brown)


  • This is the Spicy Confit Tomatoes recipe from Ben & Karen Barker’s 2000 book – “Not Afraid of Flavor recipes from Magnolia Grill”, which they gave credit to adapting from Barbara Tropp’s “China Moon Cookbook”, published in 1992. Come on Viv, at least give credit where it is due. Also, Spicewalla – you should do your fact/recipe checking better.

    Sullivan on
  • Made this and LGD. Haven’t used the Red Weapon yet. LGD I used on pizza. Very condiment to use on everything.

    Mi on
  • This is great in scrambled eggs. Also it makes a wonderful hummus. I also love Little Green Dress from Vivian’s book…very versatile.

    Doris Kistler on

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