Easter and Passover are on their way, and like spring, they are late in coming this year. Looks like another few weeks before we can fill our baskets with fresh greens. So to bridge the season, I’m pairing our local “winter” radishes — daikon and Beauty Heart — with the pretty red radishes coming in from states with warmer climates.
Our local winter radishes are bigger, sturdier and generally a bit zippier than the pretty spring and summer varieties, such as the delicate finger-sized French breakfast radish that’s scarlet with pretty white shoulders, or the common round red radish.
Radishes of all kinds are fast growers, so for city gardeners like me, they’re a very satisfying kitchen plant, sprouting a few days after seeding directly in the earth. At the market, look for radishes that are firm to the touch and not limp or cracked. Store radishes well wrapped in the refrigerator to preserve their moisture.
Crunchy and juicy radishes are terrific raw, chopped to add to tossed greens, pasta and potato salads, or shredded for a slaw. I like them best when sliced thin and fanned over slabs of dense rye bread that’s been thickly spread with sweet butter and sprinkled with coarse salt.
Cooking radishes expands their possibilities exponentially. Chinese and Japanese cuisines braise daikon and beauty heart radishes in a number of entree dishes, but all radishes are delicious cooked. The heat turns them tender and slightly sweet so they taste quite like their turnip cousins. The trick is not to overcook so they retain some of their crunch and color. Here’s how:
• Stir-fry radishes: Toss sliced radishes into a vegetable stir-fry and season with rice vinegar.
• Roast radishes: Quarter red radishes or cut the larger winter radishes into 1-inch pieces and toss with a little vegetable oil, sprinkle with coarse salt, and scatter on a baking sheet so they do not touch. Roast in a 450-degree oven until lightly caramelized and just tender, about 10 minutes. Serve on bruschetta for an appetizer or simply as a side dish.
• Grilled radishes: Use red radishes or cut the larger winter radishes into 2-inch chunks and lightly coat with vegetable oil. Set on the grill and turn until grill marks appear and the radishes are just tender, about five to seven minutes. These make a vibrant side dish.
• Braising, roasting and grilling radishes will convert anyone who thinks cooked radishes sound weird.
Beth Dooley is the author of “In Winter’s Kitchen.” Find her at bethdooleyskitchen.com.