I bet if you were playing a word association game, "radish" wouldn't come to mind when you hear the word "exciting." I can't blame you. We usually eat radishes raw, perhaps in a salad, and as Homer Simpson once taught us, you don't win friends with salad.
As members of the turnip and horseradish family, radishes look tame but they can have a pretty fiery kick. Between the variety of shapes, sizes, and color, not to mention their crisp texture, cool and refreshing watery nature, and that hint of pepper, it's no wonder that the radish is a staple, an integral part to seriously complex and delicious dishes at restaurants everywhere.
At your grocery store, you'll likely find the basic radish we normally see at salad bars. Those are just fine, but take advantage of the warm spring weather and support your local farmers by hitting a farmer's market to find gorgeous varieties like Easter egg, pink beauties, watermelon (halved lengthwise then sliced, they look like actual watermelon slices) and icicle radishes. Pepperiness does not correlate with size but rather with how long it took to grow. Split or cracked radishes may either be a sign of age or a sudden influx of moisture.
Remove the tops from radishes to keep them crisp longer. The tops attract moisture making radishes soft. Store the green leafy tops in a plastic bag in your crisper for 2-3 days; store the radishes whole in a plastic bag in your refrigerator for 5-7 days.
Be sure to eat your radish greens! They can be sauteed in a little bit of oil with garlic and red pepper or eaten raw in a salad. For the radishes, serve them raw as part of a salad or on an appetizer platter. Steam or saute them in some butter to add to entrees. You can also thinly slice them on a mandolin then deep fry them, making radish chips. Just make sure to scrub the dirt off of them with a vegetable brush and trim the stem and root ends off before preparing radishes to your liking.
Here are two ideas for making radishes the star of an appetizer platter. Their bright colors and the refreshing yet peppery bite of a radish straight out of the refrigerator make them perfect for late spring or summer entertaining.
The Mediterranean Plate
Cube 4 ounces of a good, firm feta cheese (preferrably not packed in water.) Cut half of an English cucumber into 1 inch pieces. Lightly grill 2-3 pieces of naan, pita, or some other flat bread. Trim radishes or for even more color and height, scrub them clean but serve them attached to their leafy greens in a bunch. Arrange these elements on a serving platter then sprinkle the border with flakey sea salt and a small dish of hummus. Tasters should feel free to dip a radish in some of the sea salt before eating it paired with the feta for an outstanding contrast between the crunch of the radish and the creamy texture of the cheese.
The French Plate
Place 4 ounces or 1 stick of room temperature butter in a medium bowl. Add 1 tablespoon each of up to three of your favorite fresh herbs, finely chopped-- I love the combination of chives, parsley and dill. Add a pinch of salt and pepper then mash together with a fork. Optional-- add 1/2 teaspoon of freshly grated lemon zest to the butter as well. Place the herb butter in a small bowl and serve with toasted slices of baguette and thinly sliced radish rounds that have been sprinkled with flakey sea salt. As an alternative, you can make lovely looking bruschetta by spreading the butter on cooled but toasted baguette slices, arranging the radish slices on top then sprinkling with sea salt right before serving.