Monday, January 31, 2005

All About Radishes


Do you think radishes only belong in salad? Growing up that's the only way we ate them. Not that there's anything wrong with that but the French give the radish a little more respect, they eat them with butter and salt. Actually what they do is serve radishes with slices of bread spread with unsalted butter and they dip the whole radishes in salt and eat them with the bread. This is important. If you you do this you are guaranteed to feel very French. Especially if you wash it all down with a crisp white wine.

While red radishes are ubiquitous, radishes actually come in lots of colors and sizes. White ones, purple ones, daikon radishes and black ones. Radish comes from the Latin work radix meaning root; they are part of the mustard family. Makes sense, doesn't it? They can be mild or have a mustardy bite to them. They are really an ancient vegetable, in fact there are records of the Egyptians and Romans eating them. Historians suspect they originally may have come from Asia.

I discovered black radishes when they came in my organic produce box, a while back. At the time I had no idea what to do with them so I followed a recipe for Radish Pasta. I sliced them thinly, cooked them and their greens and some chopped onions and tossed them with penne pasta and parmesan cheese and olive oil. This was first time I ever cooked radishes and I was hooked. It turns out you can cook any kind of radish. You can roast them like any other root vegetable, you can saute them or even simmer them in a little water and glaze them with butter and brown sugar. I know this might sound weird but radishes are amazingly versatile.

If you want to experiment with black or Spanish black radishes as they are sometimes called, don't peel them, just scrub them well and use a bit of salt if they are too strongly flavored. I think they are great cooked, but you can also grate them into vegetable salads to add a little bite. If you're stuck in a green salad rut, sliced or grated black radishes also taste great combined with carrots, apples, endive, cabbage or arugula...