Radical Radishes

Radical Radishes

I think I first realized I loved French chef Eric Ripert when I saw him in an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. The duo was out for dinner in New York, enjoying a traditional French appetizer of radishes served with butter and salt. It wasn’t Ripert’s striking good looks or swoon-worthy accent that got me. It was his love for radishes.

I’ve always loved this underrated spicy little root vegetable. And even though haters gonna hate, radishes + butter = terrific.

Smear softened butter on dense bread and then top with sliced radishes and a sprinkle of coarse salt? Even better. Best? Make radish compound butter.  I think it has to do with the ratio of fat to spice to soft to crunch. It’s damn near perfect.

What’s that? You say you aren’t a fan of radishes with butter? That’s cool, we can go over a few other ways to get those crunchy beauties out of the bowl and into your belly. In the wide world of radishes (red, black, watermelon, daikon, oh my!) there’s got to be one radish dish anyone can love, right? So here we go; five ways to fall in love with radishes.

1. Radish Soup
Yes, most people think to eat radishes raw and crunchy, but a cooked radish has a whole new personality. One of my favorite cookbook authors Karen Solomon likes to substitute radishes for potatoes surrounding her roast chicken. You can also make amazing butter poached radishes with a little white wine; perfect with crusty French bread as a simple appetizer. However, I dare you to try this creamy, rustic radish soup that utilizes both the roots and the greens.

2. Pickled Radish
Grab a daikon radish, a white, larger, milder radish, and mix with carrots for a Vietnamese pickle that’s perfect for banh mi or even as an accompaniment to stir fry.  If you’re looking for something that evenly straddles the worlds of sweet and hot, try this recipe for pickled red radishes. Radish kimchi is another form of pickling; fermented radish. Last but not least, check out this recipe for black radish relish.

3. Radish Salad
Don’t shake your head yet, I’m not talking about using your run of the mill French breakfast radish in this salad, oh no. Trade that one in for a watermelon radish. Kind of like an inside-out radish, the exterior is white (almost turnip-like) while the interior is a shocking magenta. Pair those pink beauties with sweet pickled onions and a little orange juice in this salad, and you should be in radish heaven.

4. Radish Dip
Radishes and their greens can be made into pesto, radish cream cheese spread, or a radish and feta spread. Perfect for chips, crackers, even crudité.

5. Radishes for Dessert
Strange, I know, but Russian radish preserves are made with sugar, honey, and walnuts.  Or you could try your hand at making a pudding with sweet radish sauce.

Well? Have I converted you to the church of radish?

The Chaser:
Holy Jetsons! Can a robot learn to cook?
If you make radish kimchi, you should definitely serve it with this Korean shrimp and scallion pancake.
Squeal! Look at all these radish-themed goods at Etsy! Earrings, matte prints, antique bronze charms!