- The Washington Times - Monday, December 15, 2003

Eating a radish requires a leap of faith. With its sharp, biting reputation, it doesn’t invite timid appetites. Yet a radish’s plump shape and vivid color are so tempting, it’s hard to resist.

Fortunately, this root vegetable’s charms outweigh its pungent nature. And radishes offer so much variety, if one type is too potent, you can find another that is more to your liking.

Cherry Belle is probably the radish you’re most familiar with. The bright red globes, ranging in size from a nickel to a silver dollar, deliver snap and crunch in the white-flesh interior. This is the standard supermarket radish, usually sold in bunches with leaves attached. You won’t go wrong as long as you choose a bunch that’s firm with bright green leaves that aren’t withered.

Shop in an upscale grocery store or a year-round farmers market, and you’re likely to see more exotic radishes. The French breakfast radish is long and narrow, white at the root and rosy near the leaf end. The delicate flavor means you really can eat it for breakfast. Try a slab of sourdough bread, buttered and topped with sliced radishes to wake up your taste buds.

White icicle radishes are shaped like carrots and white like parsnips, and they taste like neither. Although the white icicle is probably the mildest radish, it has some pungency. It’s also a little juicier than other radishes.

One of the most beautiful radishes I’ve seen — and only in farmers markets — is the Misata Rose. About the size of a large pear, it has a cream to light green exterior. Cut the radish open, and you’ll be amazed by the magenta-colored flesh. If you’re looking for stunning color, seek out this radish.

But any radish, whether rare or garden variety, makes a delightful addition to a salad for two. You can buy radishes in small quantities and refrigerate for a couple of weeks if necessary. Just check every couple of days to make sure they aren’t getting soft.

Rub off any dirt from the radishes under cold running water and trim off the leaves. Don’t slice the radishes until you’re ready to serve or you’ll lose flavor and crispness.

Radishes are valued for whetting the appetite. When you serve a radish salad, be sure to follow with a robust entree, such as filet mignon with mushrooms and brandy.

Radish-and-lettuce salad

3 cups mixed salad greens

2 tablespoons coarsely chopped ripe olives

4 to 6 thin radish slices

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

Divide salad greens between 2 salad plates. Top each serving with 1 tablespoon of olives and half the radishes. Combine olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in a cup. Stir well. Pour half the dressing over each serving. Makes 2 servings.

Filet mignon with mushrooms and brandy

4 bacon strips

1 shallot, minced

4 ounces coarsely chopped shiitake or oyster mushrooms or a mix

Salt, pepper

2 6-ounce pieces filet mignon, cut ½ inches thick

¼ cup brandy

½ cup chicken broth

1 generous pinch dried, crushed rosemary

Fry bacon strips until crisp in large, heavy-bottomed skillet. Remove bacon, crumble and set aside. Pour off, and reserve all but 1 tablespoon bacon drippings.

Add shallot and mushrooms to skillet. Saute 5 minutes, stirring frequently, or until mushrooms are tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove and set aside.

Return remaining bacon drippings to skillet and heat. Add filet mignon, and brown on high 3 minutes per side. Remove filet mignon from skillet; set aside. Add brandy to skillet, and cook over high heat, scraping up browned bits. When brandy cooks down to 1 tablespoon, add chicken broth, mushrooms, crumbled bacon, rosemary and filet mignon.

Cook over medium heat 2 to 5 minutes, turning meat over once, or until mushrooms are hot and meat is desired doneness. Makes 2 servings.

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