There I was in the kitchen, staring at a black radish.
I felt a little intimidated.
I’d never handled or eaten a black radish. It was so very black. Its skin was rough, almost like suede, and it looked tough to slice. I mean – black foods don’t usually scare me. If there’s anything I love to eat, it’s black beans. Why should I, who routinely joint whole raw chickens without turning a hair, feel insecure in front of a radish?
It all started with my Glazed Turnips post. In the comments, readers, especially cookbook author Faye Levy, encouraged me to cultivate the acquaintance of radishes. OK. I got fired up. Next time I took a bus out to the shuk, I made a point of getting four different kinds of radishes. Yes, you’ll be reading about all of them. But I bravely took the strangest-looking one first.
Keep it simple at first, was Faye’s advice. So I took knife to radish and cut away the root and stem parts. The moist, pearl-white interior was such a contrast to the black skin that I thought I’d peel it in stripes, just for pretty.
And I ate it three different ways. One half of it, I cut into 1/4″ slices and sautéed in a little butter, sprinkling salt and black pepper over the slices adn turning them over as they cooked until they were tender and dappled with brown spots.
The texture was meaty, something like a steamed potato. The butter had mellowed the raw radish’s pungency, leaving a tamed radish to savor. This is something I’ll do again. I see that the radish can be dressed up with herbs, grated cheese, maybe a mild sauce – but for right now, plain buttered black radish is delicious enough for me. One tip: slice on thick side, maybe even as thick as 1/2″. The meatier, the sweeter.
The other half of the radish, I cut into matchsticks and combined with grated carrot and a vinaigrette dressing. Fresh, juicy chickweed from my windowbox added that leafiness the salad needed. I liked this robust slaw too.
I also tried a few black radish chips. Slice the root as thinly as possible, or put halves in your food processor. Bathe them in a little olive oil and sprinkle salt over them. Bake in a hot oven for about 10 minutes. Be careful – they can burn to a crisp in no time, as I found out. The unburnt, crisp, brown chips were quite tasty. Husband crunched them up and liked them too.
The local Russian population brought a traditional cough remedy made from black radishes. Grate a black radish, mix it with honey, cover, and let it sit for several hours. The grated radish will release juice. Eat the whole goopy mess or squeeze out the honeyed juice. I haven’t tried it, but I did notice that the sauteed radish activated the cough leftover from last week’s flu.
Next kitchen adventure: green and white Korean radish.
Where, I ask, will this all end? Looks like I’m converting to radish-dom. Well, in winter it seems that we crave meaty, starchy root vegetables, as in summer what we crave are leafy salads. Just let your body go with the seasons.