Radishes make radical, yet yummy, dishes

Published 12:00am Saturday, April 27, 2013

Bracingly zesty and crunchy, the toothsome radish is the thing to eat now. They are one of the first things to harvest in the spring garden. Radishes are easy and eager to grow. The earliest English colonists planted them in the South. They have kept their association with spring, but there are varieties appropriate to grow and harvest in all seasons.

Depending on the type, radishes can be enjoyed raw or cooked or used for seasoning and coloring other foods. Some varieties have a distinctive peppery punch, which reminds us that radishes are in the mustard family, while others are mild and cooling. We were eating at Cochon in New Orleans this week and the chef had radishes featured on two of the salads. One salad had pork tongue with charred radishes (which was delicious) and the other used the watermelon radish (spicy) with pickled pecans, which made the salad more colorful and interesting.

Beware that fresh radishes wilt quickly after they are pulled, rendering them pithy and bland. They have no shelf life, often making commercial varieties from grocery stores a disappointing choice. Moreover, most radishes sold in little plastic bags have had their tasty greens removed. The proliferation of commercial radishes might explain why radishes have declined in popularity since World War II.

Southern bon vivant Eugene Walter said that one of his grandmother’s favorite expressions was “sad as a store-bought radish.”

These radish recipes are somewhat different but give them a try. Radishes are low in fat and good for you and eating them now is such a treat when they are at their finest!

Taken from the Wall Street Journal, April 6, 2013, which they took from Frank Stitt’s Bottega Favorita

 

Pea, Radish and Ricotta Bruschetta

Serves 4

Preheat broiler. Blanch ½ cup sweet peas, fresh or frozen, in boiling water, then shock in ice water and drain. Place peas in a bowl and crush with a potato masher or the back of a large spoon to form a coarse purée. In a small pan over medium-high heat, sauté 1 shallot, finely diced, with ½ tablespoon olive oil until translucent, one to two minutes. Stir shallots into peas and season with salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste. Broil four slices focaccia or other Italian white loaf until golden brown and crisp, about 30 seconds per side. Spread fresh ricotta across each slice and spoon some crushed peas over top. Garnish each bruschetta with lemon zest, pea shoots and thinly sliced radishes, and drizzle with olive oil.

 

The next two recipes are from The New Southern Garden Cookbook by Sheri Castle.

Skillet-Roasted

Radishes

Makes 4 servings

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 pound small radishes, trimmed of leaves and rootlets

2 tablespoons butter

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

 

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Heat the oil over high heat in a large, heavy skillet (preferably cast-iron) until shimmering hot. Add the radishes and stir or gently shake the skillet to coat the vegetables in the hot oil. Cook, stirring or shaking the skillet occasionally, until the radishes are lightly browned in spots, about four minutes.

Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast until the radishes are barely tender, 10-15 minutes. Gently shake the skillet or stir the radishes every five minutes so that the vegetables do not scorch on the bottom.

Add the butter, salt, and pepper and stir to coat. Sprinkle with thyme and serve warm.

You could replace half of the radishes with whole baby turnips that are about the sam size.

 

Radish

Sandwiches

Makes 4 servings

This recipe salutes the European breakfast tradition of eating radishes with butter, which takes the vegetable’s bite. Although it’s hard to beat really good fresh European or cultured butter on the bread, you can also use herbed cheese spread, whipped cream cheese, or mayonnaise. You can add lemon zest, a few finely chopped herbs, or finely chopped radish greens to the spread, but keep this simple.

Assorted radishes in different shapes and colors are pretty, but the classic for this dish is the peppery breakfast radish. The radishes should be very crisp, so if yours are a little fatigued, soak the slices in ice water for a few minutes to wake them up, then pat them dry.

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, preferably European or cultured, at room temperature (I am into using Kerrygold as this is from grass fed cows.)

8 thin slices of crusty white bread (such as a baguette) or soft white sandwich bread

Coarse salt of kosher salt

8 small radishes, ends trimmed and very thinly sliced

Generously butter the bread. Sprinkle with plenty of salt. Arrange the radish slices pretty on top. Serve open face. Enjoy within an hour.

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