All I have to do is see a radish and my mood improves. If my mood is already good, then I’m over the moon at a radish sighting. I’m not sure what it is about the cheery little red and white orbs or ovals that inspire such good feelings. Perhaps it’s their arrival at the market when the chill of winter still nips around the edges, or the relief they give us from root vegetables at the end of the season. Maybe it’s the fact that the radish – at least in France – implies ample butter, beautiful salt, and baguette too. Or maybe it is simply its pure, vivid crunch and its flavor, which can range from almost sweet to bitingly hot.
Not Just in Spring
Whatever it is, the radish holds a special place in my heart and at my table. And now that the radish has busted through its role as just a spring vegetable, to become available throughout the summer into early fall, the plot thickens, the excitement deepens. Because there is much to be done with a radish besides just serve it as an appetizer with the aforementioned trio.
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Egyptians knew this. To them, the radish gave strength, and was integral to the courageous crowds who built the pyramids, accompanied by leeks and onions. Later, the Romans cultivated all the varieties we see today, from the yellow and purple round versions, to the long, snaky black ones, to the white daikon style. As they conquered Europe they sifted radish seeds along their trail making the Roman Empire a radish empire.
Old or new?
Did the ancients cook the radish? Not sure. Did they blend them with a creamy dressing as here to use alongside their honeyed meats and seafood? We don’t really know. But it doesn’t matter because you can do these things, and the salad here is just one way to enjoy radishes. It leaves their color and crispness intact and because it isn’t typical, it brightens up a plate with its novelty. Chill this first – you’ll love its cool crunch. And know that when you serve it you’re also serving a dose of health and prevention, for the ancients used the radish to fortify themselves and cure coughs and sore throats.
Fabulous Side Dish
I like to serve this alongside grilled meats and poultry. It is delicious with fish, too, served alongside or on top. Chill it just a bit before serving, and you’ll find yourself with a delicacy to enjoy and share.
SALADE DE RADIS - RADISH SALAD
- 1 shallot peeled and minced
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon crème fraîche or heavy cream
- 2 bunches radishes trimmed of stems and roots,
- and thinly sliced in matchsticks or in thin rounds
- Sea salt
- Piment d’Espelette
- 1/4 cup; 2g chervil sprigs
- Chervil sprigs for garnish
- Put the shallot in a small bowl. Add the lemon juice then whisk in the olive oil and the cream. Season with salt and Espelette pepper. Add the radishes and toss, gently, then add the chervil and toss again. Season with salt and pepper, and transfer directly to a serving dish. Either serve immediately, or chill for 30 minutes before serving. If you’ve chilled the salad, give it a quick toss and garnish with chervil sprigs before serving.