Pick of the month, June ‘08

June 30, 2008 · 1 comment

Just making it in the month. With about 9 hours to spare.

If only I could just transpose my thoughts, into cohesive rather than disjointed and often polarized clumps, directly to a post. Because I’ve spent a lot of time over the past month, thinking about radishes. It’s that gathering-typing-editing-and-finally-posting process that gets me, every time.

I first took notice of this petite root vegetable a few years ago, when a friend mentioned growing them in her garden. How odd, I thought. Radishes. But I added them to a few early-summer salads, witnessed in my friend’s garden how easily they grew, and added them to our own garden the next summer. They grew better than anything else that year — which is simply a testament to the fact that they’re hard to kill here in the early months of summer (I’m referring to the red, summer variety, the one most commonly seen in supermarkets). We stuck to the basics in using them, adding them to green salads, and occasionally to a corn salad or two.

But their delightful crunch can lend texture and freshness to other applications as well. They were called for in a Cook’s Illustrated recipe for enchiladas, as an optional topping (along with onions and avocado). We gave it a try, and who knew? Their mild, cool kick perfectly complemented the spiciness of the enchiladas. But my favorite use to date, I stumbled upon just a few weeks ago. I was at a friend’s house, flipping through a recent issue of Food & Wine. It was the issue that highlights America’s top new chefs, and each bio gave a recipe from the honoree. I took one look at the dish prepared by Chicago’s Giuseppe Tentori, and started hounding my hostess for pen and paper. His Quinoa Salad with Pickled Radishes and Feta looked like a divine summer treat, perfect for a light lunch or side for a Mediterranean-inspired supper. I jotted down the details about the pickled radishes, and made them the next week.

Reminiscent of the Pickled Red Onions that I’ve promised (and thus far failed) to detail in a post, these bright pink radish slices topped about everything I had for lunch that week. Green salads, rice salads (a summer staple in our household), even turkey sandwiches. They sport a typically pungent, pickled bite, and give a welcome lift to any lunch standby that’s got one foot over the state line of Boring. You can find the whole recipe at the link above, but I’ll retype the super-easy instructions for pickling the radishes:

Pickled Radishes (sourced from Food&Wine, August ’08)

  • 1 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 medium radishes, very thinly sliced

In a small saucepan, bring the red wine vinegar to a simmer with the sugar. Remove from the heat and add the radish slices. Let stand until cool, about 1 hour.

Give this a try, because there’s not much to lose. Have I mentioned how cheap radishes are, this time of year? Your local farmer’s market is a good buy, but you can also pick up a bag of them at the grocery store — my bag had about 20 radish bulbs, and was $1.50. Wasn’t it Peter Rabbit and friends who frequently munched on radishes? Turns out they were thrifty little bunnies.

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