Radishes: Tangy Eye-openers!

Red Radish

Any time but the height of summer, something as simple as preparing a green salad can get the best of you. All you want to do is add a little color, but the tomatoes are hard and mealy, and the red peppers are $5.99 a pound. Let's see... what else is red?

Well, if you think radishes are just for color and garnish in a salad, you're missing out. The radish has been valued as a full-fledged vegetable as far back as the ancient Greeks, and it was among the foods said to have nourished the workers who built the pyramids.

Your average radish has one (that's right, one) calorie. True, it doesn't have much in the way of nutrition, but what do you expect for one measly calorie? Not much - but radishes deliver flavor way beyond expectations. In fact they may have the highest flavor-to-calorie ratio of anything growing. One cup of Haagen Dazs equals about ten pounds of radishes. So stop ogling those plastic tomatoes and get some radishes.

Although you're probably used to eating radishes raw, they cook up beautifully. You can even hollow them out and stuff them if you have infinite patience (or volunteer kitchen labor).

  • Puree radishes with oil, vinegar, mustard, and yogurt for a tangy and thick salad dressing.
  • Sauté sliced radishes with a green vegetable - asparagus, broccoli, spinach, snow peas, green beans.
  • Use radishes instead of celery for crunch in tuna salad.
  • Serve a classic American salad of radishes and iceberg wedges with blue cheese dressing.
  • Stir-fry thin slices of beef or chicken with radishes, scallions, and some hoisin or oyster sauce.

But to my mind, radishes are best roasted. Roasted? Absolutely - a roasted radish is creamy, mild, and surprisingly unlike the raw version. Try it and you'll see:

Wash and trim radishes, and cut them in half if they're large. Put them, with a little olive oil, in a baking pan big enough to hold them easily. Cover the dish with aluminum foil, and put it in a 425-degree-F oven. After 45 minutes, uncover the pan, stir the radishes, and return the pan to the oven. Roast until the radishes are soft, 1 to 1 1/4 hours total. All they need is a spritz of balsamic vinegar and they're ready to go.

Horseradish

If you celebrate Passover, let me make a little bet with you: I'm willing to wager that horseradish is on your shopping list, that Passover is the only time you buy it, and that you still have the jar from last year. You use it for the maror, or bitter herb, on the seder plate, and you serve it with gefilte fish. And then you put the jar back in the refrigerator. Yes?

Even if that's not you, chances are you're not exploiting horseradish to its fullest potential. Apollo claimed that the horseradish was worth its weight in gold, and while you may take issue with his price, take note of his sentiment. He had a point - horseradish has a distinctive, appetizing flavor that complements meats, dairy, and eggs.

The best way to ensure your horseradish is fresh is to grate your own, but that's going to bring on more tears than Terms of Endearment. Better to buy it from someone who grates it fresh. But not to worry if your only choice is the bottled kind - it may lose some of its potency, but its flavor is fine.

Whenever you cook with horseradish, taste as you go. Strength varies, so you can't depend on measuring spoons.

  • Mash horseradish and ground pepper into softened butter, and use as a condiment for fish or meat.
  • Enliven your mashed potatoes with horseradish, sour cream, and chives - or combine the three and serve with plain baked potatoes.
  • Toss boiled or roasted beets with horseradish and balsamic vinegar, and let them marinate for a couple of hours or overnight.
  • Make a sauce for meat with horseradish, mustard, dill, and buttermilk.
  • Add horseradish to chicken, crab, or lobster salad.
  • For an easy horseradish crust, lightly coat chicken, pork, or a flavorful fish such as salmon with mustard. Combine horseradish and breadcrumbs, press the mixture into the meat or fish, and bake.
  • Make your own cocktail sauce - it's just ketchup, horseradish, and lemon juice (and a dash of Tabasco if you like).

And, of course, it isn't Passover without gefilte fish and horseradish.

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