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How I Learned to Love Radishes

Published Mar 21, 2019 • Last Updated 01:41 pm, March 19, 2019

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I never liked radishes. My mother and father would eat them whole. But, even when they were sliced, I found them so peppery that it burned my little mouth.

And then, about 20 years ago, I had a fresh radish, thinly sliced, and felt not the burning but the flavor of the soil from which the seed gestated.

Once, when West Street Grill’s James O’Shea and his partner, Charlie Kafferman, came to visit, James sliced fresh radishes in a skillet and gently sautéed them in unsalted butter. He served them with a fillet of salmon, topped with fresh herbs he found in my garden. That same spring, I bought some radishes, sliced them, and ate them with a few slices of Charlie van Over’s baguette slathered with butter. It was shatteringly delicious.

In a recent issue of Fine Cooking, there are three recipes for radishes. Our local radishes may not be ready yet, but they will be soon and, in the meantime, there are some beautiful ones in the supermarket. I was particularly pleased with the produce aisles at the local Big Y.

When you do buy radishes, make sure the radish greens are full, fresh, and very green. The radishes should be solid. And as soon as you get home, remove the greens from the radishes, rinse them and free them from sand, dry them, and pack them in a sealed plastic bag separately from the radishes themselves.

Lee White of Old Lyme has been a food editor and restaurant reviewer for more than 25 years. You can email her at leeawhite@aol.com.

Pasta with Radish Tops and Bottoms

From Fine Cooking, April-May 2019

Yield: serves 4

 

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 cups halved red globe or French breakfast radishes

(about 9 ½ ounces)

10 ounces campanella (or swirly pasta)

¼ cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling

4 cups coarsely chopped radish leaves and tender stems

(about 3 ½ ounces)

4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced lengthwise

¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or more to taste

1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

¼ cup toasted pine nuts

¼ cup freshly grated pecorino Romano, plus more for serving

 

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil.

Put the radishes in a medium bowl and toss with ¾ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions until al dente. Reserve one-half cup of cooking water, then drain.

In a large deep skillet, heat ¼ cup oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add radishes and cook, stirring occasionally until beginning to turn golden, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium low and add radish leaves and stems, garlic, and pepper flakes and cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is fragrant and greens are wilted, about 2 minutes. Add chickpeas, parsley, and pasta. Stir to coat and heat through. Remove from the heat and add reserved cooking water, a little at a time, to loosen the sauce, if you like. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the lemon zest and juice, pine nuts, and ¼ cup of cheese. Drizzle with oil and serve with more cheese at the table.

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