6.21.10 Relish the Radish

Radishes 790 xxx
photo by george billard
A radish is a beautiful thing, something like a baby turnip with a bite. I'm sure you're already familiar with the classic European way of eating them with slightly softened butter and a sprinkling of coarse sea salt. What could be better? In his seminal cookbook, Nose to Tail Eating, British chef Fergus Henderson suggests that you eat your radishes in this manner and then follow that with a light salad made of their greens tossed with a vinaigrette. Sort of a vegetarian nose-to-tail approach, no? Thin slices of dark bread, buttered and layered with radishes and sea sat, make a fantastic sandwich. And I love an early summer salad of sliced radishes, blanched English peas and chopped preserved lemon, tossed with a couple of tablespoons of creme fraiche and maybe a chiffonade of mint. BUT, perhaps you have an aversion to radishes. Too strong you say; or maybe even too watery or too strange. For those of you in this camp, and any others who would like to branch out in new radish directions, may I recommend the delicious braised radish?
Cooked radishes are a revelation. You'd think they would be soggy and weird, but they're actually rather more like the above-mentioned baby turnip: succulent, sweet, divine. With a light butter glaze, they beautifully complement duck or grilled pork. This is a quick, simple, seasonal side that may be off your beaten track.On an interesting note, radishes are also packed with nutrition. Despite being 90% water (and thus very low in calories), they contain as much potassium as bananas and are also an excellent source of vitamin C, folate and magnesium.BUTTER-BRAISED RADISHESserves 4 2 tablespoons unsalted butter 1 spring onion diced, white part only 1 pound (about two bunches) radishes, cleaned, green tops removed, stem ends trimmed; smalls left whole, mediums halved, larges quarteredsea saltfreshly ground black peppergenerous pinch sugar1/2 cup waterIn a pan large enough to hold the radishes without crowding, melt the butter over medium-high heat until lightly brown and nutty. Add the diced onion and reduce the heat to medium. Cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes, then add the radishes, salt and pepper to taste, sugar and water, stirring to combine. Increase the heat to high and bring just to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to low. Cook for about 20 minutes, until tender when pierced with a fork. Uncover, increase the heat to high and bring back to a boil; cook for about 4 minutes, until almost all the liquid has evaporated and a syrupy glaze is left on the radishes.