Twenty-Eleven will go down in history as the Year of the Radish. We planted too much. And so we were stuck with eating too many. Believe it or not, you can begin to feel you ate too many radishes, like anything else you grow too enthusiastically in the garden. Last year it was bitter spring greens. This year, radishes.
When the season started and the first little red and pink orbs started forming, I started with my go-to seasonal favorite radish dish: on crackers with butter. I make my own butter, so this is pretty much a no-brainer of deliciousness. I slice the radishes thinly and maybe, maybe, add a chive to the top if I am having a dreary day. Then, I sprinkle sea salt on top and I always use Nabisco saltines. I don’t use any other brand. Only Nabisco. And only eat them the day I open the sleeve. You can blow thru a good portion of the sleeve when you have a lot of radishes. I did. Leftover make good bread crumbs or I feed ‘em to the chickens.
I don’t buy a lot of prepared products but there are a few times I feel you need something specific and nothing else will do. This spring snack is one. Then there’s Hawaiian Punch when I am really strung out from helping too many people. Wonder Bread for garden tomato ‘n butter sandwiches is another. Don’t judge me until you’ve tried it and, in case you are gonna try it, you are welcome.
This year, the go-to salad for spring was shaved fennel and radish with spinach and honey vinegar dressing. I bought the fennel, of course, but there’s enough spinach in the garden that I actually started eating this salad for breakfast, but only when I added aged ricotta. Sometimes, too, dried tangelos on that breakfast salad.
For lunches, I mostly ate it plain, although once I tried preserved kumquats. They were a bit mushy so the texture combinations seemed weird to me.
Sometimes I ate that salad with my fingers. Sometimes with a fork. I only used Madon sea salt and I occasionally added 1-inch long chives, which I can make without measuring because I worked for a dickhead French chef during a dark time in my life. He’d throw out your chives if they weren’t an inch long.
He didn’t appreciate it when I asked him how he knew how long an inch was by site, since he grew up metric.
I made Spring Chow Chow. Grate one head cabbage and add in about 15 ramps, finally chopped, about 10 radishes, also finely chopped, and about 2 tablespoons of salt. Let that drain for about 8 hours for a workday or overnight and then added in a pickle of equal parts apple cider vinegar and sugar, seasoned with dry mustard, dry ginger, dried lovage powder and some brown mustard seeds. After you dissolve everything in the vinegar, add the drained vegetables and cook about 10 minutes. Pour into hot canning jars and seal. I. Don’t. Boil. The. Jars.
I added diced radish to chicken salad. I also made beef tacos so I could add them, slivered, to the tops of the tacos. Those two things were a bit of a bust, radish-wise, because I only used two radishes each. And I really sorta needed to use more.
So, I made some of Mary Klonowski’s Cancer-fighting Kale Salad. The salad is basically a mix of slivered Tuscan Kale (you can use any Kale by why would you when Tuscan kale tastes so delicious), smashed raw garlic, red pepper flakes, olive oil and lemon juice. It is ready in 15 minutes and can hold up for 3 days. You can mix in all sorts of things then, parm and pine nuts, dried lemon chunks and walnuts, preserved lemon and Marcona almonds, or … radishes! I added a lot.
But using all these radishes meant that I had a lot of radish greens.
So, the next thing I made was beer- braised chicken thigh with whole radishes and radish greens. You can’t use overgrown radishes for this dish as they will come out tough. But basically you sear off a chicken thigh, at the end of cooking adding in diced garlic and onion so they get a little translucent. When that is done, fill the pot with water, some dark beer, maybe at about a 1:4 ratio, and bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. I used Big John from Goose Island because I had a bottle open and I couldn’t finish it. Let it cook until it is done.
I also made a quiche with sauteed radish greens subbing in for spinach and lots of gruyere cheese.
By Memorial Day weekend, with radishes growing since about mid-April, I was getting a bit strung out on radishes and it was then that I made Straccetti di Manzo con la Radish Greens, only subbing in the radish greens for the arugula in this classic Roman dish. Basically, it is super thinly sliced beef sauteed in garlicky oil (I used green garlic, since it was spring) with wilted arugula. Turns out, the bittery tang of the radish greens is a great foil for the steak.
Everything can be made in one pan, which is always a bonus, and you make it by basically adding one item following the next as you go. By which I mean saute steak, towards the end add a big handful of diced green garlic, saute a bit, add the radish greens, wilt. The radish greens have to saute a bit longer than arugula, so you may want to remove the steak before adding the greens. Finish with a splash of lemon-Bay leaf vinegar.
Homemade Butter: Seriously, you just take a good quantity of cream that is getting oldish and let it sit out all day. Then, whip the crap out of it. The liquid is buttermilk. Pour it off. Then add cold water and whip. Drain. Repeat until the water drains out clear. Add a little salt and whip that in. Voila.
Lemon-Bay Vinegar: bring lemon rind and Bay leaves to a boil in white vinegar. Boil for about five minutes then pour it into a bottle and stick it in a dark place to macerate.
Honey vinegar: Mixing together honey and water in a ratio of about 1:8 and then float a little raft of yeast on toast on the top of the mixture for about a week or two, until the fermenting happens. You can then take off the toast and let it cure for about 6 months. The vinegar will keep for about ever, but it doesn’t last that long, so I make it is huge batches of about 4 gallons.