18 June 2007

Benito vs. the Produce Section: Radishes

Radishes are by no means unusual, but I can't remember eating one recently. We grew some during a brief period of my childhood when we had a vegetable garden (which also included corn and giant pumpkins). I know I've had some slivered radishes in salads over the years, and I'm sure that the little red globes have snuck into my dinner at some point, but at no time in the past twenty years can I recall ever intentionally consuming radishes or even wanting them. Time then for a personal challenge.

First, I decided to make a radish rose, since these days you're most likely to see radishes used as garnish. I then did what Mom taught me not to do and ate the pretty garnish. I figure it's allowed since I made it and frankly it wasn't decorating anything other than an empty plate. A raw radish is crisp, peppery, a little bitter, and oddly refreshing. If it wasn't so dense I'd consider it for use in a martini. There are other, more absurd, iterations on the radish garnish. If I buy radishes again, I can see mixing them with carrot sticks for snacking.

For my second radish dish, I'd read that the French enjoy thin sliced radishes on buttered bread. (Search for pain+radis+beurre if you want plenty of recettes en français.) I made a slight detour and lightly fried the radish slices in hot butter, and toasted the bread. The result: an open-faced fried radish sandwich. It wasn't bad, but not the kind of thing I will see myself eating on a regular basis. The frying killed all of the heat of the radishes, but the overall experience was depressing. I wasn't starving, but that was my dinner that night. A radish sandwich. I stood there in the kitchen eating the cursed thing, while staring longingly at my herbs and knowing that there was better food in the fridge and freezer.

At this point I became discouraged with the radish challenge and turned the rest into the compost heap. Any help out there from my readers? Suggestions on all of the great underappreciated uses for radishes that I've missed out on?


fredric koeppel said...

Standing in the kitchen eating a radish sandwich! That sounds like a new low in one's life.

Jen said...

Try this. It made me a radish convert.

Braised Red Radishes
From Vegetables Every Day
Serves 4 as a side dish

20 medium radishes, with leaves, stems and rootlets removed (about 1 pound when trimmed)
1 T unsalted butter
1 medium shallot, minced (substitute minced onion if you don't have shallots on hand)
½ cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 T honey
1 T minced fresh parsley leaves

1. Unless very small, halve the radishes lengthwise from stem to root end.
2. Reduce the stock by one half by simmering in a saucepan or the microwave.
3. Melt the butter in a large lidded saute pan. Add the shallot and saute over medium heat until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the radishes and stir-cook until well coated with butter, about 1 minute.
4. Add the stock and honey, cover, and cook until the radishes are tender but not soft, about 10 minutes (a bit less, in my experience. Keep an eye on them). Remove the cover, season with salt to taste, and simmer to allow any juices in the pan to reduce to a glaze, about 1 minute. Garnish with the parsley and serve immediately.

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Benito said...

Fredric: I'm not going to say this was a high point in my life, but I think one of the most discouraging aspects of the experience was that I didn't have the desire to eat anything better afterwards. Note that this situation was forced by my urge to use the radishes and not poverty/a bad harvest/etc.

Jen: Thanks for yet another great recipe, which I will definitely try once I get the chance. If you have a blog, please post a link and I'll be happy to include you in the blogroll.

Barbara said...

I Love them raw with butter and salt. They can also be cooked by steaming them in a little water and tossing in butter.