For the first few weeks of our CSA pickup, the offerings are decidedly . . . green. Collards, kale, lettuce, spinach, arugula, even the hallowed garlic scapes: all delicious, but very monochromatic.
Radishes, last week, were the one flash of color. And while they may seem like a bit of a no-brainer, you may be surprised to see how versatile a vegetable they really are. Of course, they taste immeasurably better when they're so fresh that dirt still clings to their knobby roots; they're spicy and sweet, crunchy and soft all at once. The physical varieties vary greatly, too -- from pale white to bright magenta to a tennis-ball-sized black variety we received several years ago (we were dubious, but they tasted great!)
Here are my favorite ways to enjoy radishes:
- Washed and sliced in a salad. This is probably the most common method, but that's because it works! Red radishes can be sliced into roses for a sophisticated garnish.
- Topping a soup. They're perfect for cold soups, like gazpacho, and in hot soups they cook ever so slightly, taming their crunch. My two favorites: Mexican pozole (pork, hominy and a garlicky chile sauce with lime) and Asian chicken (shredded chicken, soba noodles and tofu in rich broth.)
- Roasted with other root vegetables. This is probably more of a fall dish, but you could swing it on one of the 65-degree nights we've been having recently. Choose companions from a pallette of turnips, carrots, beets, potatoes, onions and garlic; toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and spread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 400, stirring every 10 minutes, until browned to your liking.
- Before they're ripe -- as sprouts. Radishes grow in about five minutes (I'm exagerrating, but only slightly) and when you're thinning your plants, don't forget to enjoy the spicy sprouts on your salad or sandwich. You can buy them at many organic groceries, too (MOM's is a favorite.)
- Sauteed with their own greens. In many cases the greens have the same peppery flavor, though later-season varieties tend to work better. Heat oil in a skillet; saute radish pieces until softened slightly, add washed and sliced tops and stir until just wilted.
- Raw with dip. French onion or Green Goddess are fine, but I prefer the simpler Italian method: a shallow dish of olive oil and a tiny one of salt. Dip and sprinkle. Perfection.
- As a classy appetizer: layer thin slices with butter or soft cheese on sliced baguette. Top with chopped herbs -- dill, thyme or chives. Look how pretty they are!