Is there a crisper, perkier, more brilliantly hued vegetable than the radish? I think not. Why don't people use more radishes, or use them more often? Why not make humdrum tuna, egg, or potato salad crunchy and give it a little pep at the same time? Why does stringy, boring celery get so much attention? It can't be that we're collectively afraid of a little peppery warmth; we live in a city where they sell 50 kinds of hot sauce in every market and jalapeno poppers at the movies. It can't be the kid-friendly factor; local farmers can't grow kale fast enough to keep up with demand, and I don't see kale showing up in lunchboxes any time soon.
Maybe people just don't know what to do with radishes so they give them a wide berth? If that's the case I'd like to remedy the lack-of-radish-use problem right away. What follows are some simple ways brighten up your meals with radishes.
Radish Salad Number 1 Combine 1 bunch diced radishes + 1 diced avocado + segments from 2 grapefruits + 2 tablespoons fresh (or 1 tablespoon dry) dill. Season to taste with salt and pepper. The juice from the grapefruit serves as the dressing.
Radish Salad Number 2 Combine 1 bunch thinly sliced radishes + 8 stalks asparagus thinly sliced (raw or steamed) + 1/4 cup fresh raspberry vinaigrette.
Radish Salad Number 3 Combine half a bunch of sliced radishes + 2 to 3 thinly sliced mini bell peppers (yellow or orange) + 8 to 10 ounces of thinly sliced heirloom tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Grilling is my favorite way to add radishes to a meal. Grilling is fast, adds lots of flavor, and it mellows the radishes' sharper tones. Skewer them and grill like shish kebabs, or halve and grill them individually... You can toss them in a little olive oil first, but you can grill them naked and season with salt and pepper after the fact. I used a grill pan on the radish in this photo.
The radishes that inspired this post were the plain old regular kind. But there are options. Daikon radishes are huge - often over a foot long, and have a gentle flavor. Breakfast radishes are long and narrow and peppery but less full-bodied in flavor, which apparently makes them suitable for a morning nosh...
All in all, it's best to be straightforward and assertive with your radishes. Take a cue (or a sound bite) from Eva Peron, who said "there are some oligarchs that make me want to bite them just as one crunches into a carrot or a radish." Enough said.
Andy Broder is the chef/owner of AndyFood, A Culinary Studio.