Pickled turnips, called mkhelal lifet in Arabic and navets sales in the Maghreb, are a mainstay of mezes. They are also pickled with assorted mixed seasonal vegetables. Beets are commonly added to impart a light pink color.
Combine the turnips, beets, garlic, and, if using, chili. Place in a sterilized 2-quart jar.
Bring the water, vinegar, and salt in a medium saucepan to a boil and stir until dissolved. Pour over the turnips to cover. If desired, drizzle the oil over top to seal. Let cool, then tightly cover.
Place in a cool place for at least 10 days. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
Middle Eastern Pickled Cauliflower (Turshi de Culupidia): Substitute 1 large head (about 2 pounds) cauliflower cut into florets for the turnips.
Middle Eastern Pickled Mixed Vegetables (Turshi Khodar): Reduce the turnips to 1/2 pound and add 3/4 pound sliced carrots, 1/2 pound cauliflower cut into florets, 1/2 pound sliced koosa (Middle Eastern squash) or zucchini, 1 or 2 seeded and sliced green or red bell peppers, 2 to 3 sliced stalks celery, and 1 cup (about 4 ounces) shredded cabbage or 5 to 6 small kirby cucumbers.