I think by now we all know the formula: Radishes + salt = appetizer elegance. Radishes + butter + baguette = snack time nirvana. Radishes + rustic farm table + screen-printed textiles = a food photographer’s dream.
But what if you’re on your 100th radish bunch of the summer and these peppery gems need to play a greater role? More than something to tide us over between meals, more than just a garnish? What if a bundle of radishes on its own must be tonight’s vegetable?
CSA subscribers, prolific gardeners, and enthusiastic market-goers alike know this issue all too well. Sure, radishes and butter and salt are made for each other, but come mid-summer, even the most striking ombre roots begin to lose their luster.
When this happens, it might be time to reconsider the formula. While we usually eat radishes raw, they can be cooked, and when they are, they transform. When roasted in the oven at high heat, radishes, like many root vegetables, caramelize and take on those concentrated, wintry flavors.
Roasted radishes are delicious, but this time of year, a nice option is to pan-braise, which mellows the radish’s spice and changes its texture, making it tender and moist, almost beet-like. This Deborah Madison recipe, though perhaps more hands-on than other radish recipes, still takes only minutes to prepare and keeps the flavors simple: shallots, butter, water, herbs. The beauty of this preparation, too, is that the greens steam with the radishes at the very end, making the dish more substantial — a side that will comfortably feed four.
How to store and prep radishes
As soon as you get home, remove any elastic bands or ties and trim the greens from the radishes, using scissors or a sharp knife. Store the greens and radishes in bags or in tea towels, wrapped loosely in the refrigerator. Soak both the greens and radishes in a large bowl of cold water before serving — both tend to be dirty. Dry radishes well before serving; the greens can be somewhat damp before steaming or sautéing. Greens that have yellowed should be discarded; greens that look tired can be revived in a bowl of cold water — after 20 to 30 minutes, the greens should perk up; if they don’t, they’re probably beyond repair.
How to cook your radishes
Radishes are most often served raw, halved and sprinkled with salt, shaved into salads, layered over butter-smeared baguettes, or shredded into slaws. They also can be marinated with olive oil and lemon and mint for a refreshing salad, and they can be pickled with a classic vinegar-sugar-salt mix. Finely diced radishes mixed with red onion, jalapeño, cilantro, and lime make a peppery and crunchy salsa, a nice addition to any taco. Radishes can also be roasted with olive oil, salt, and pepper at 450ºF for 15 to 20 minutes or until caramelized and tender. Additionally, they can be sautéed and puréed with any number of vegetables (parsnips, potatoes, turnips, etc.) for a light vegetable side dish. This purée, too, can be thinned into a soup with chicken or vegetable stock. The greens: Discard any yellowy greens before cooking. Greens can be quickly steamed or sautéed and dressed with olive oil or butter, a squeeze of lemon or splash of vinegar, minced shallots, and any number of herbs.
Our favorite radish recipes
Obviously we’re not going to get very far without talking about our favorite roasted radish recipe. This one enhances their earthy flavor with garlic and caraway seeds; the longer the roast, the sweeter and milder the radishes taste. Even radish skeptics will fall in love.
Think beyond the usual cabbage to make a spring-forward slaw that’s perfect alongside burgers, grilled meat, or your Easter ham. This recipe makes use of the broccoli stalks that you might have otherwise been likely to toss, plus dried cherries, chopped pistachios, and watermelon radishes. If this slaw doesn’t sing spring’s praises, I don’t know what does.
The absolute chicest tartine for spring, this one is made very simply by buttering a slice of toasted bread (use your favorite loaf and the best butter you can get your hands on), then topping it with super thinly sliced radishes and a generous sprinkle of flaky sea salt. Breakfast, lunch, and springtime snacking, perfected.
When you really want to celebrate the simplicity of radishes, while taking advantage of every last bit of them, whip up this aioli. Chopped radish leaves are blended in alongside the usual eggs, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, garlic, and oil. It’s the ultimate dipping sauce for, what else, radishes!
Not to toot our own horn, but we think that the idea of reducing orange juice until it’s thick and syrupy is a brilliant way to make an absolutely delicious salad dressing, especially once that’s served with radishes, feta cheese, and mint.
Move aside, pepperoni. We’re dressing up this simple cheese and pepper pizza with spring’s shining star: radishes. Our readers voted this their favorite recipe that uses radishes and turnips. Enough said.