Go radical with radishes – you’ll be glad you did

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 14, 2011

Perhaps a radish is just a radish, but I like them a lot and think they are just so good without much tinkering with. They are crunchy, peppery and need nothing more than a sprinkle of salt or a dab of butter. They are great in salads, sandwiches; and crudités are a wonderful way to showcase their sassy flavor.

Radishes are in at the farmer’s markets and come in different varieties. There are Easter Egg radishes, which can be oval or round and come in multicolored bunches of white, purple, pink or red. Small oval French Breakfast radishes are red with white tips. Icicle radishes are elongated and white. Watermelon radishes can be golf-ball- or baseball sized; white on the outside and pink within, they taste almost like turnips, Radishes, cousins to arugula and cabbage, have a zing that’s mellowed by cooking, since cooking brings our an earthy sweetness.

Radishes say spring is here.

Radishes are also a good source of vitamin C and also contain significant amounts of calcium, magnesium, folate and potassium. Practitioners of natural medicine prize radishes for their ability to stimulate digestion, cleanse the system, and alleviate congestion and a sore throat.

Spring and fall are the best time to buy or grow radishes as hot weather turns their flavor strong and their texture spongy. Choose firm, smooth radishes that feel heavy and have fresh green tops. At home, trim the tops to half an inch, and refrigerate the radishes unwashed in plastic. They will keep for at least a week.

Try the following with your radishes:

Crudité Plate: Include radishes on a platter with slices of fennel, celery, bell pepper, and sugar snap peas; serve with green goddess dressing.

Salad Nicoise: Add radishes to a salad of tuna, olives, steamed potatoes, blanched green beans, tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, anchovies, and lettuce.

Stir-Fry: Mix sliced radishes into a stir-fry of pork tenderloin, lime juice, chipotles in adobo and green onions.

Indian Radishes: Add a cup of radishes to ½ cup of red wine vinegar and 1 tablespoon of salt for four hours in refrigerator. Serve with cocktails.

These next two recipes are good examples of how radishes can add to an appetizer or a main course.

Sliced Baguette With Radishes and Anchovy Butter

Makes 16

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

2-3 anchovy fillets, finely chopped

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Coarse kosher salt

16 ½ -inch-thick diagonal slices baguette

10 radishes (such as French Breakfast), trimmed, thinly sliced on diagonal

Additional chopped fresh chives (for garnish)

Mix butter, 2 chopped anchovy fillets, and 2 tablespoons chives in small bowl, adding one more anchovy fillet to taste, if desired. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Spread anchovy butter over one side of each baguette slice. Top each baguette slice with radish slices, overlapping slightly to cover bread. Garnish with additional chopped to serve.

Sautéed Chicken and Radishes with Mustard and Tarragon

Serves 4 as a main course

4 skinless boneless chicken breast halves

Coarse kosher salt

2 ½ tablespoons butter, divided

2 tablespoons minced shallot

¼ cup dry white wine

1 cup low-salt chicken broth

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon

2 bunches radishes (such as red, pink, purple, and white: about 20), trimmed of all but ½ inch of green tops, radishes halved lengthwise

Fresh tarragon sprigs, for garnish

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Melt 1 tablespoon butter with 1 tablespoon oil in large skillet over medium-high heat.

Add chicken to skillet and cooked until browned and cooked through, for five to six minutes per side, depending on the thickness. Transfer chicken to plate; cover to keep warm. Add shallot to same skillet; stir over medium-high heat one minute. Add wine, then broth to skillet; bring to boil.

Whisk in mustard and chopped tarragon; boil until sauce thickens enough to coat a spoon lightly and is reduced to scant ½ cup, for five to six minutes. Stir in ½ tablespoon butter; set aside.

Meanwhile, melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter with 1 remaining tablespoon oil in heavy medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add radishes; sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper; cook without stirring until radishes begin to brown, about four minutes. Continue to cook radishes until crisp-tender, stirring occasionally, four five to six minutes longer.

Cut chicken breast halves crosswise into ½-inch thick slices; arrange on platter. Place radishes around and over chicken. Spoon sauce over chicken and radishes. Garnish with tarragon sprigs and serve.