Spring Radishes

by Kerry Dunnington

A Root Worth Rooting For!

When I was at the market buying seafood for an upcoming party, I overheard my Israeli friend Rafi, who runs a seafood wholesale business, talking on the telephone. In his commanding and boisterous voice, (accent intact), I heard him say, "Vhat do you mean you vant it? You can't have it! It's out of zeason!" I closed my eyes made my purchase of (in season) Shad Roe and said to myself: "Thank you Rafi, for helping to spread the word: YOU CAN'T HAVE IT, BECAUSE IT'S NOT IN SEASON!

Maybe it's a little easier for us to understand that an item like a soft crab (a molting crab that has just emerged from its hard shell) simply isn't going to be available all year round, but just as you shouldn't see soft crabs this time of year, you really shouldn't see markets stocked with green tomatoes, watermelon or rhubarb in December, January and February, or, for that matter -now! What is in season this month is the sprightly flavored radish, a root worth rooting for!

Selecting
Although there are many varieties of radish, the most popular and commonly known radish is the round and red, Cherry Belle. Also popular is the white radish (harvested in the winter months) known as daikon, (meaning "great root") used mostly in Japanese stir-fries. Relatively new is the Easter Egg variety, a colorful combination of, lavender, rose, reddish purple, pink, white and scarlet. I prefer buying radishes that have green tops intact, the greens should be fresh, bright green and crispy looking, bulbs should be firm and plump. For optimum flavor, choose small to medium radishes; larger radishes can be tough and woodsy tasting.

Preparing
If you serve radishes whole with leaves intact, as suggested below, wash well just before using. Otherwise remove leaves and store whole radishes wrapped in plastic; they will keep for several days. To prepare, wash well, trim off stems and tips.

Worth Noting

  • About one cup of sliced radishes is 20 calories
  • Radishes peppery tastes stimulates the production of saliva and rouses the appetite
  • In Oaxaca, Mexico, on the 23rd day of December, The Night of the Radishes ("La Noche de los Rabanos") is celebrated. Radish growers provide artists with giant radishes that are used to carve elaborate sculptures!


Enjoying
For cocktail hour, (and a twist on the ubiquitous vegetable platter) serve radishes with crispy, fresh looking leaves intact, set in a clear glass bowl filled with ice cubes, (makes the radishes extra crispy). Have a ramekin of salt for dipping. Other creative ways to enjoy radishes: add sliced radish to tossed salads or make tea sandwiches; combine 8-ounces cream cheese with 2 teaspoons dried tarragon and teaspoon salt, slather slices of bread with cream cheese mixture, top with a thin slice of radish, season with salt and top with remaining slice of bread. Radish bunches make a colorful and unique centerpiece, especially the Easter Egg variety. Crispy, crunchy radishes make a tasty and colorful addition to this month's recipe for Radish Rice, a twist on the usual lettuce salad.


 


 

 

Radish Rice

The rice can be cooked a day or two in advance and the salad ingredients can be prepped before your guests arrive. Assemble the ingredients and toss just before serving.


SALAD

  • 3 cups cooked white rice, room temperature
  • 1 cups frozen peas, thawed (place peas in tepid water, thaw for about 15 minutes, drain)
  • 1 cup radishes, cut in half and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup yellow cherry tomatoes, cut in half*
  • 1/2 cup celery, sliced thinly on the diagonal
  • 1/2 cup sliced scallions
  • 1/2 cup orange pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup pitted black olives, chopped (preferably Kalamata)
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and toss with just enough dressing to coat, season with salt and pepper.

Serves 6-8

 

DRESSING

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • In a 2-cup capacity jar with a tight fitting lid combine salt, pepper, Dijon mustard and vinegar, shake vigorously. Add olive oil, cup at a time, shaking after each addition. Keep dressing at room temperature until ready to toss with salad.

Yields 1 cup


*Warm temperatures produce sweet yellow cherry tomatoes, if they are not available, omit or use red cherry tomatoes


WINE PICK? 2005 Mormoraia Vernaccia di San Gimignano ($15.00)


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