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Radish renaissance 3 new ways to enjoy 'em.

The best way to eat a radish is smeared in butter and dusted with crunchy sea salt. There's no point arguing this. Many who've gone before have already proved you wrong. It's important to use room-temperature butter--the most delicious, tangy, cultured butter you can find (extra points for homemade)--and the kind of coarse salt crystals that are big enough to catch the light and sparkle.

If you must dress up the radish (don't you think it's pretty enough already, with its smooth skin, supple shoulders and rainbow-bright, firm flesh?), well, fine then. Go ahead and slice those babies as thinly as you can and layer them atop a crusty baguette that has been split in half and has itself been buttered and salted. Here you have the fundamental building blocks of taste: bread, butter, salt and pepper (the radish is the pepper). Dark rye breads are pretty great in this role, too, as many people of Eastern European descent will tell you.

But the radish comes in such a fun array of costumes--black! hot pink! tie-dyed!--that it's hard to resist playing with your food. And who knew you could cook a radish? (If you did, good for you, but most North Americans probably haven't yet had the pleasure of snapping their teeth right through the middle of a hot, baked radish.) This is an especially good option for folks who don't appreciate the spicy bite of radishes, because peeling them and cooking them are sure ways to tame their heat. The pungent note is actually a mustard oil enzyme, much of which lives in the skins, and the enzyme's pungency softens at high temperatures. Roasted radishes taste a bit like mild, sweet turnips.

But the best reason to try roasting, braising, broiling, steaming or sauteing the humble radish is that putting old-fashioned foods to new uses can be delightfully creative and satisfying. Plus, adding your own contribution to your culinary heritage is a sure way to honor it. In this spirit of experimentation, you'll no doubt discover that the simple old way--raw, dragged through butter and salt--really is the best. But fanning the flames of invention never hurt anybody.

To that end, if you have wonderfully inventive ways to use radishes, we'd love for you to share them with us and each other. Just email with "Radish Recipes" as the subject line, or post a comment to the online version of this article at www.MotherEarthNews. com. While you're there, check out even more radical (and tasty) radish ideas, including Mapled Radishes, WholeRadish Pasta, Daikon Cakes, and Pink-and-Black Radish Bake.

Watermelon Radish Pickles

Radishes make great pickles, and you can use any radish in this recipe. Green watermelon radishes, with their stunning rainbow interiors, make a most attractive pickled condiment. You can also substitute a number of different vinegars here, but the sweet complexity of Champagne vinegar is a refreshing contrast to the strong mustard oil found in radishes.

1/2 cup Champagne vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
Pinch coarse sea salt *
1 cup watermelon radishes, sliced into "water
  melon slices" or another shape you like

Bring the first 4 ingredients to a boil, remove
from heat, allow to cool, then chill in the refrigerator.
Pour the cold pickling liquid over the
radishes, cover and store in the fridge for up to a
month. You may enjoy them on the second day,
or you may like them better after a few days. Do
several taste tests.

* Do not substitute refined salt. The calcium
and magnesium impurities in pure sea salt help
reinforce cell wall pectins, yielding a crisper
pickle. If you don't believe me, ask Harold McGee,
the friendly and trusted food scientist who writes
"The Curious Cook," a wonderful New York times
column you really must read (visit

Baked Vegetable Chips

Here are 3 reasons to turn radishes and other root veggies into chips: (1) It's laughably easy yet somehow impressive. (2) They make a healthier stand-in for other snacks. (3) It's a great way to use up an abundance of garden goodies.

According to Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, the flavor-pairing gurus behind The Flavor Bible, radishes are good buddies with basil, chervil, chives, cilantro, avocado, cream, cheese, crab and anchovies. Try serving your chips with a simple dip that mixes any of these, such as Italian bagna cauda, which is a "hot bath" of anchovies, butter, olive oil and garlic. I also like a blend of anchovies, chives and cream cheese; or avocado, cream and crabmeat.

Mixed root vegetables, thinly sliced (You may
want to peel some vegetables, such as beets,
but with most, if you normally like eating the
peels, you can leave them on.)

Olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Any herbs you have on hand (optional)

Toss the vegetable slices in the oil and seasonings.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
and a single layer of veggie chips. Bake at 275
degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes, then flip the
slices and bake another 15 minutes. Check the
chips every few minutes, until they are crispy but
not burnt. Serve warm or cool.

Black Radishes the Russian Way

Pungent black radishes are beloved in cold-climate countries, where they last months in storage. According to Elizabeth Schneider, the author of Uncommon Fruits and Vegetables, not so long ago were the days you could hardly find a Russian tabletop without a snacky spread of zakuski ("little bites"). Alongside hearty black bread, pickled mushrooms, roasted beets, herring, sturgeon and, of course, vodka and caviar, you'd find black radishes grated into a chilly soured cream.

You might like grated black radishes used this way in Indian raita or Greek tzatziki, with yogurt taking the place of the sour cream and the radishes replacing the cucumbers. Slices of pungent black radish are also a fabulous stand-in for horseradish on a steak sandwich.

1 cup coarsely grated black radishes (The large
  holes on a standard cheese grater work well.)
1 cup Russian or Greek sour cream (It's worth
  using the real thing if you can find it. If not,
  try another sour cream or creme fraiche.)
Quick squeeze of fresh lemon
2 tbsp chives, chopped

Combine all ingredients and chill. Serve with
hearty country bread. If you want to go all the
way with the Russian theme, serve alongside a
selection of zakuski.

More Radish Revelations

* Radish greens are one part peppery, one part bitter, and several parts tasty. They're rich in calcium and high in other nutrients. Saute whole radishes with their greens in olive oil and garlic, then toss with pasta. Pan-fry small, whole radishes for an elegant pasta garnish.

* Use thick-cut slices of radish as a cracker with various spreads or cheeses on top.

* Marinate radishes in oil, citrus, mustard, salt, sugar and herbs for a delicious salad topping. Use the marinade as dressing.

* Top tacos with shredded radishes instead of lettuce--the Mexican way!

* Radishes don't freeze well, but they'll stay crisp and last longer in the fridge if stored topped and tailed in a bowl of water.

* Radish seeds make delicious sprouts, and you can grow them indoors even in winter.

* The thick, white, giant (sometimes 6 feet!) radishes known as daikon are the inspiration for the Hawaiian insult "daikon leg." We just thought you should know.
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Title Annotation:REAL FOOD: Eat in Season
Author:Alterman, Tabitha
Publication:Mother Earth News
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2012
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