I always got after myself about radishes. They’re one of the first fresh vegetables to come from the fields in spring, they’re pretty and plentiful–and almost always cheap. But I couldn’t get myself to eat more than a sliver at a time. I tried them again and again, with hopes of acquiring a taste for the peppery little buggers, but never met with success. Until this spring.
I discovered that their peppery taste could be toned down to a palatable level with a little light cooking. It shouldn’t have taken so long to make the connection. I had always loved daikon in miso soup, slightly crunchy and a tiny bit bitter, just enough to add some interest. But not until this spring did I connect the dots: Hmmm. . . daikon is a radish—a long white Japanese one, but a radish nevertheless. . . . I like it in soup–and stir fries, come to think of it. . . . maybe the cooking is key . . . .
So I began experimenting. First an Asian-themed soup using watermelon radishes, then a hamburger skillet dish featuring plain old red radishes. Once cooked, they added just the right amount of zing. Last night, with no less than four bunches of radishes in the frig, I tried a radish salad based on a recipe included with one of my weekly produce deliveries.
It was delicious! Here’s the recipe, but when you make it, don’t throw out the radish tops as they’re completely edible, too. More on that later. . .
Asian Radish and Carrot Salad
- 1 small sweet onion (e.g., Vidalia or Walla Walla)
- 2 tsp. safflower or oil (or toasted sesame)
In a large sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat until fairly hot, add onions and sauté about 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.
- 1 bunch radishes, cut into ¼” matchsticks (2-3 cups of cut radishes)
Add to the onions and cook just 2-3 minutes, stirring a couple times.
- 4 Tbsp. brown rice vinegar
- 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp. agave nectar
- 1 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
- 1 tsp. minced garlic (from a jar is fine)
- Freshly ground pepper, to taste
While vegetables cook, combine dressing ingredients in a medium-sized glass serving bowl. Stir to combine thoroughly, then pour into vegetables. Cook just 2-3 minutes then pour everything back into the glass serving bowl.
- 3 med. carrots, julienned, then cut into roughly 2″ lengths
Toss with onion-radish mixture and serve at room temperature or chilled.
Onion: Although a sweet onion is called for, a yellow or red would also work; they just take a little more sautéing to remove the raw-onion taste. Also, perfectly in season, would be green onions, which don’t need much cooking at all. Throw them in the pan just before the radishes.
Radishes: I used regular Red Globe radishes, along with a fancier variety called d’Avignion . I imagine almost any kind would do, especially daikon. Cutting the little critters into matchsticks is the only time-consuming part of this recipe, but I can’t think of a good substitute cut. Cut off both ends, then stand the radish up on one of the flat ends. Slice it vertically, then flip it over and cut vertically again to form “matchsticks” about ¼” square. Have them pretty well cut and ready to go before putting the onions on to cook. Otherwise, the onions will get overdone.
Carrots: The fastest way to julienne carrots is with a julienner, a hand tool that costs around $10. Great investment.