Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Root of All Good

Have you ever had a crush on an ingredient?  Smitten with its sheer, simple beauty, the way you remember that cutie from school days, but it only becomes obvious as a grown up.  Why didn't you see it then?  You can't answer, but you see it now.  And then, your second chance is handed to you, to fall all over again.  

I've always loved radishes.  They were usually on my family's table growing up (and to some degree, they still show up).  Right next to some briny olives, stinky cheese and a home made, baked stromboli of anchovy, orgeano and hot pepper flakes.  Sadly, they usually get thrown on the lowly crudite old school restaurants and country clubs roll out for banquets (and usually have to roll back in).  But, the rekindling of my romance with the radish came when I began to see it for its taste profile instead of where you might expect to see it, like on a relish tray.  Its natural zippiness, water chestnut-like texture and perfect "SNAP!" on the teeth gets me wound up sometimes.   Ok, not wound up, but this puny little vegetable is misunderstood, at best.  Kind of like celery.

Radish by Fran Henig
You can cook radishes (try a braise, or quick saute) in the manner of a turnip, with appropriate amounts of butter and a little stock.  You can julienne and toss in a salad or make a refined slaw to top tender and sweet striped bass. Or whatabout the all-the-rage pickling?  Money.  For an hors d'oeuvres, try a little hot/cold thing and toast pieces of sour dough bread with cream cheese or good quality ricotta until a slight color develops; slice radishes thinly and layer on top with some sea salt and chives.   DAMN, that's good eatin'. 

One of the simplest combinations, however, is salted butter and cold, raw radishes.  Those who know are nodding- and, those who don't are asking, "WTF?"  All I can say is get thee to the produce stand, with dispatch.  Use a quality butter and let it warm slightly until spreadable.  WINNING.
Photo courtesy of Minnesota Monthly

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