Roasted Radishes– NYTimes, 6/12/10

15 Jun

From the NY Times:

OF all the things you can do with a radish — slice it into salads, chop it into salsa, shred it into slaw or, better, top it with a thick layer of sweet butter and a sprinkling of flaky sea salt — the last thing I’d thought to do was cook it.

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But last spring I started noticing roasted radishes sprouting up on menus all over New York City. Even the fancy takeout shop near my house was offering them every now and again. Clearly, there was a reason to cook a radish, and I wanted in.

So I gave it a try, roasting a bunch of halved radishes in a hot oven with plenty of butter and lemon juice.

One mouthful, and I immediately got the appeal. Instead of spicy, crisp and crunchy, these radishes were sweet, succulent and mellow, vaguely like turnips but with a softer bite.

I continued to cook radishes all season long, pan roasting them instead of oven roasting when the weather became too hot. I usually ate them for lunch sprinkled with feta cheese and herbs, or sometimes left them naked but for extra sea salt and cracked black pepper.

Then winter came. Tender radishes vanished from the farmers’ market, and I forgot all about them, until a friend served them at a dinner party in January. They were prepared raw, slathered with an anchovy-and-garlic-laden bagna cauda sauce. The combination of garlic, anchovy, butter and tangy radish hit the exact umami notes that I always crave. So I knew that the moment radishes came back into season I’d try the same thing.

At last I had the chance when they reappeared at the farmers’ market last month. While the radishes were roasting, I stirred together a quick sauce similar to bagna cauda. Then I piled the soft radishes and pungent sauce onto toasted crusty bread, crostini style.

The toast sopped up the sauce, making it possible to get an even greater garlicky sauce-to-radish ratio in each bite than without the spongy cushion. It also made the radishes seem like more of a meal than my usual bowl of warm salad.

Sometimes the most familiar ingredients are the ones with secret lives.

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