This past weekend at the farmers market, the radishes looked so cheerful that I couldn’t help myself and loaded up.
But radishes simply don’t keep. When freshly picked, a good radish is best enjoyed right away, dunked in ice water and set out with sweet butter and salt. They’re remarkably crisp, juicy, peppery and refreshing. Try them shredded and mixed into soft butter or cream cheese to set out with baguette or spread on pumpernickel and cucumber sandwiches.
While most of us think of eating radishes fresh, they’re also quite wonderful cooked. With heat, their vibrant color fades and so does their peppery bite. Try adding them to a spring vegetable sauté or braising them in butter as you might young turnips.
Our region’s cool springs are perfect for growing radishes. You’ll find different varieties at the farmers markets and in our co-ops, including the finger-shaped French Breakfast radishes, their red tops fading to white; Cherry Belle, the most familiar round bright red radish; White Beauty, the small round white radish that’s sweet and spicy. Black Spanish, a large winter radish, has rough black skin and bright white flesh, and is nearing the end of its season, as is the Watermelon or Beauty Heart radish with pale green skin and shocking pink flesh.
Right now local radishes are plentiful and at their peak. Look for firm, smooth radishes and avoid any that appear limp, are larger than normal, or have fissures and cracks, for their textures are probably woody and their flavors are likely to be too hot.
As soon as you get the radishes home, remove any elastic bands or ties and trim the greens with a sharp knife. Store the greens and the radishes in bags in the crisper compartment of the refrigerator. Soak both the greens and the radishes in a large bowl of cold water to remove any dirt and pat them dry with a clean dish towel or paper towel, before putting them out.
Radishes’ tender leaves have a mild, peppery flavor that resembles arugula; they are good added to lettuce salads, sandwiches and to top off pizza. Try sliced or chopped radishes and leaves stirred into yogurt with dill as a sauce for fish or lamb. Sliced radishes and greens, tossed with good olive oil, lemon juice and masses of cilantro and mint, make a sharp, refreshing salad on a soft late spring eve.
Beth Dooley is the author of “In Winter’s Kitchen.” Find her at bethdooleyskitchen.com.
Mixed Radishes and Chickpea Salad With Tahini-Lemon Dressing
Serves 4 to 6.
Note: Peppery radishes, creamy chickpeas and rich, tangy tahini dressing make a great starter or side salad. (Tahini is a paste of ground sesame seed.) You can prepare the dressing ahead of time, then assemble the salad right before serving. The dressing doubles as a dip for spring vegetables. (This makes a generous 1/2 cup of dressing.) From Beth Dooley.
• 1/4 c. tahini
• 1/4 c. water, or more if needed
• 1 tbsp. olive oil
• 1 garlic clove, minced
• Generous 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice, or to taste
• 1 tsp. honey or to taste
• 1/4 tsp. ground cumin
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
• 1 lb. mixed radishes (such as Breakfast, Cherry Belle, Watermelon, Black Spanish); save the greens
• 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
• 1 1/2 c. cooked or canned chickpeas, rinsed
• 1/4 c. finely chopped radish leaves
• 1 tbsp. finely chopped parsley
To make the dressing: In a medium bowl, whisk together the tahini, 1/4 cup water and olive oil until smooth. Then whisk in the garlic, lemon juice, honey, cumin, salt and pepper, and adjust the seasonings to taste.
To make the salad: Slice the radishes so that the pieces are similar in size. In a large bowl, toss together the radishes, onion and chickpeas, and arrange on a serving platter or individual plates. Drizzle the dressing over the salad. Garnish with the chopped radish greens and parsley. Serve immediately.
Nutrition information per each of 6 servings:
Calories 170 Fat 9 g Sodium 45 mg
Carbohydrates 19 g Saturated fat 1 g Total sugars 5 g
Protein 6 g Cholesterol 0 mg Dietary fiber 6 g
Exchanges per serving: 1 vegetable, 1 starch, 1 ½ fat.