Monday, December 6, 2010

An Embarrassment of Radishes

Usually, radishes aren’t too hard to handle. The little red and white spheres or oblong shapes come in small bunches. A few can be easily chopped or sliced to perk up a salad or they can be munched on their own in one or two bites. They’re spicy and exciting for their size, but don’t cause too much trouble.

I’m not here to talk about that kind of radish.

It turns out that those little radishes have assertive big brothers that come out to play in the fall and winter. Our CSA boxes have been bulging with such fine specimens for weeks, which means, long-lasting as they are, they’re starting to accumulate in the refrigerator. We have the long, white daikon radishes that you may have seen in supermarkets, but also red daikons and Spanish black radishes. Each has a slightly different flavor, although that flavor is familiar if you’ve ever eaten any kind of radish before. Sure, like their little red and white buddies, they’re good cut up and served raw alongside carrot and celery sticks or broccoli and cauliflower florets, but with the sheer mass of them I now have on hand, it seems that radishes aren’t just for snacking anymore.

The white daikons, I’ve used in Asian flavored slaws, even before subscribing to this CSA. (A little bit is good added to this salad.) They are usually quite mild in flavor and have a pleasant, jucier crunch. The red daikons are round rather than long, and look like turnips on the outside. Cutting them open, however, reveals a magenta-colored flesh that is fairly strong in flavor. These can even be a little funky as well as zingy with some of that fuming sensation that can kind of go up your nose. They will definitely assert themselves in a salad or as a garnish. The Spanish black radishes are something new to me. Their skin is truly, strikingly black, but they are creamy white on the inside. They taste pleasantly spicy and peppery.

I decided to use up some of these delicious radishes in bulk by shredding them along with some lovely, sweet and very bountiful carrots, also from the CSA. I adapted a couple of recipes for shredded jicama and carrot salads, since the texture of jicama is similar to that of the radishes. The dressing I used is vibrant with citrus juice and zest as well as chili powder, cumin and coriander. I didn’t add anything spicier since the radishes are spicy enough on their own.

I was pleasantly surprised by how well the flavors meld rather than compete with each other in this slaw. There’s a little bitterness from the radishes, of course, but it is complemented by the orange and lime zest, perked up by the acidity of the juice, and sweetened up by the carrots and the touch of honey in the dressing.

You could use any combination of radishes or even just the more readily available white daikon to make this salad. You could also use jicama instead, or all carrots, or probably any other shred-able slaw ingredients. That is, if you don’t find yourself with quite such an embarrassment of big, crunchy, strong and spicy winter radishes in your refrigerator.

For lots more on radishes, including recipes, check out this post from Cook Out of the Box, by Peggy Hanson, who writes great stuff about the food in our CSA boxes.

Radish and Carrot Slaw with Zesty Citrus Dressing
Based on recipes in Cooking Light magazine

I used a food processor with a shredding blade to grate the radishes and carrots. You could use a box grater. The texture will likely be finer.

Each of the types of radishes I used here should be peeled before shredding.

2 cups peeled and shredded daikon, red daikon or black radishes or a mix
2 cups peeled and shredded carrot
½ cup finely sliced red or yellow onion or scallions (green onions)
¼ cup chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon honey
½ teaspoon coarse salt
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon ground coriander seed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1. Combine the radishes, carrots, onion and cilantro in a large bowl. Set aside.

2. In a small bowl combine the remaining ingredients. Whisk until well-combined. Pour over the radish mixture and mix well to coat all the ingredients with the dressing. Serve right away or chill. Leftovers will last a few days in the refrigerator. Re-toss leftovers if dressing has puddled in the bottom of the bowl.

Makes about 6 servings.

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