If you grow your own vegetables, have a CSA, or shop at a farmer’s market, you’ve already experienced the seasonal abundance of radishes. You’ve done all you can imagine to use them up. You’ve eaten them raw — sliced into salads, layered onto sandwiches, garnishing the top of tacos. You’ve pickled jar after jar to save for later in the year. And now, you’re frankly just tired of dealing with them. You want nothing more than for the fresh corn, tomatoes, and peaches of summer to arrive.
I understand, I do. But don’t be too quick to bid radishes adieu. You’re likely not really bored of the actual radishes; you’re only bored of how you’re eating them. It’s time to mix up your radish routine — these vibrant and spicy bulbous root vegetables can, and should, be enjoyed in more than just salads.
“Everyone knows what radishes are,” said Jonathan Deutsch, program director of the Department of Hospitality, Culinary Arts and Food Science at Drexel University. “But nobody knows how to do anything interesting with them.”
Recently, Deutsch set out to improve the radish’s sad stigma. He challenged his students to develop recipes for radishes beyond the salad bowl. And with many students who lacked the experience of cooking them, it was indeed a challenge. Not a single radish enthusiast could be found in the crowd.
“I’ve eaten radishes on salads, but what else are you supposed to do with them?” said a frustrated Alexandra Zeitz as she brainstormed ideas for possible dishes.
“I don’t really like radishes,” said Kaitlyn Hoefert as she pureed red radishes in a blender. “When they’re raw, they’re too spicy for me. So I’m trying to make them actually taste good.”
Another student glared at the bunch of red radishes on his cutting board. “How many times have you cooked a dish with radishes before?” I asked him.
“Zero,” he said with a laugh.
Not every culinary student was new to the radish. At least one had prepared them in a kitchen before. “When I worked at Distrito [Iron Chef Jose Garces’ modern Mexican restaurant], we put radishes on everything,” said Jessica Lawyer, “but never really in anything.”
She continued to carefully slice a red radish with a mandolin while prepping for her radish-focused dish. “I’ve always wanted to make a ceviche for vegetarians,” said Lawyer with confidence, “and I think it’ll work well with these radishes.”
In just under an hour, the small group of students was able to master cooking radishes. And none of their culinary creations required cumbersome preparations. The first thing you should learn about radishes is that the entire plant is edible. Yes, even the leaves can be eaten. So eat them. Don’t just cut the greens off and throw them away. But because they’re the first part of the plant to rot, remember to cut them off from the radish bulbs as soon as you buy them. Then, within three days, sauté them like you would any other type of greens.
Despite the fierce kick of spice a raw radish typically gives you, radishes aren’t that frightening to cook at all. Don’t be afraid to use them in ways unrelated to a typical salad. Radishes can actually be tasty in a variety of recipes. Roast or sauté them in a pan like you would potatoes, dice them up to add some spiciness and flavor to seafood, or mix some radishes in with any other in-season vegetables for a carbonara dish. When radishes are cooked properly, their intimidating crispiness and spicy kick mellows. Soft, sweet and succulent, they don’t even taste like the same vegetable anymore.
Still, it’s hard to get overly excited about radishes. At the end of the day, you can only do so much with them. You can repurpose a vegetable, but you can’t radically reinvent it.
“No matter what you put on the plate,” said Deutsch, “it’s still a radish.”
4 tablespoons cold butter, divided
1 large shallot, peeled and sliced into rings
2 pounds radishes, tops removed, quartered
1 quart brown veal stock
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat two tablespoons of butter in a large skillet. Add shallots and cook just until translucent, about one minute. Add radishes and cook until butter and radishes begin to brown, about three minutes. Add veal stock and cook uncovered on medium-high heat to both reduce the stock and cook the radishes. Cook until radishes are fork-tender, about 10 minutes.
Remove radishes from pan with a slotted spoon and continue to reduce stock until a glaze is formed. Add remaining butter and swirl pan to incorporate. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour butter-mounted glaze over radishes and serve immediately.
Serve as a side dish with grilled steak or portobello mushrooms.
Recipe by Jonathan Deutsch
Fennel and Radish Carbonara with Roasted Asparagus
1 bulb fennel (save fronds for garnish)
1 bunch of asparagus
1½ cups Parmesan cheese, grated fine
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 ounces pancetta or bacon, diced (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Water or cream, heated to just below a simmer, as needed to thin sauce
1 egg yolk (optional)
Preheat oven to 400°F and wash vegetables. Slice fennel on a diagonal into quarter-inch strips. Slice radishes with sharp knife or mandolin to approximately eighth-inch thick rounds. Break the woody portions of the asparagus stems and cut to similar lengths.
Once the oven has preheated, line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil, and line up the asparagus on the sheet pan. Drizzle a tablespoon of oil onto asparagus and lightly coat each stalk. Spread evenly on the pan and season liberally with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for approximately 20-25 minutes until tender.
As the asparagus cooks, heat a dry pan on medium-high heat. If you are using pancetta or bacon, add it to the pan to render the fat. Remove the meat when it looks crisp. Using the remaining fat and supplementing with butter if necessary, add the fennel to the pan and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper and sauté until tender.
Add the sliced radishes to the pan with the fennel. Season with salt and pepper and add more butter if needed. Sauté until the radishes have turned translucent and are the texture of al dente pasta.
In a separate bowl, beat the two eggs together with a half-cup of Parmesan cheese. For a richer, creamier sauce, add an extra egg yolk. Add the egg and cheese mixture to the vegetable mixture and mix thoroughly. Cook until just creamy, being careful not to overcook the eggs.
Slowly add Parmesan cheese to thicken the sauce. If it becomes too thick, add a splash of hot cream or water and stir vigorously. Taste and season before plating.
Recipe by Edward Green
Crab and Radish Crostini
10 large radishes
1 pound lump crab meat
¼ cup chives, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
Heat grill or grill pan to medium heat. Slice the baguette on a bias, thinly. Brush the bread with olive oil. Once the grill is heated, toast the bread until slightly charred. Remove onto a sheet tray and let cool.
Cut the avocado in half, pit, and skin. Scoop the insides of the avocados into a bowl. Add the juice of two limes and a splash of olive oil. Mash the avocado with the back of a fork until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Store in the refrigerator until ready to assemble crostini.
Cut 5 of the radishes into a small dice. Empty the container of crab meat into a large bowl. Add zest and juice of one lime, the chopped chives, the diced radishes and about a half-cup of olive oil. Stir to combine and season with salt and pepper.
Using a knife or a mandolin, thinly slice the other 5 radishes. Store in water until ready to assemble the crostini.
To assemble, take one slice of bread. Spread a thin layer of the avocado mixture on the bread. On top of the avocado, place two or three thin slices of radish. On top of the radish slices, spoon about three tablespoons of the crab salad.
Recipe by Alexandra Zeitz
2 cups sliced radishes
1 cup lime juice
4 tablespoons lemon juice
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup sugar
⅛ cup salt
3 tablespoons poblano chilies, sliced
3 tablespoons red bell peppers, finely chopped
¼ cup cilantro, rinsed and chopped
In a bowl, combine salt, sugar, lime juice, lemon juice, poblano chilies, and red peppers. Mix with a spoon or fork until the sugar and salt dissolve.
While stirring, gradually pour in olive oil. Stir until well incorporated.
Let mixture sit in fridge for 10 minutes to let the flavors combine.
Add radishes to sauce and marinate for 5 minutes. Serve in a chilled bowl or plate with radish-ginger granita (optional).
Recipe by Jessica Lawyer
Radish Ginger Granita
2½ cups water
2 cups radishes, chopped into ½-inch pieces
¼ cup ginger, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice
2 fresno chilies, halved
½ cup of sugar
¼ cup of lime juice
Add all ingredients to a small pot. Boil until ginger and radish are tender.
Pour into a blender and blend on high until smooth.
Freeze the blended mixture in a shallow dish until solid, about 2 to 3 hours, stirring every 30 minutes.
Recipe by Jessica Lawyer
2-Layer Radish Dip
2 cups radishes
½ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup sugar
Water, as needed
Blend radishes and water in blender until juiced. Strain. In a saucepan bring radish juice, vinegar and sugar to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain, setting remains aside for sundried tomato dip. Simmer the strained liquid until it is thick enough to spread.
Sun-dried Tomato Dip
2 cups Greek yogurt
1 cup cream cheese
½ bunch of dill, chopped
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, rehydrated and chopped
½ carrot, finely shredded
½ shallots, grated
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper, to taste
Strained radish from gatrisque, to taste
With a paddle attachment, whip yogurt and cream cheese until light and airy. Add dill, vinegar, tomatoes, carrots, shallot, cayenne, and salt and pepper to taste. Add the strained radish to taste.
Chill and serve on top of radish gastrique. Serve layered dip with assorted crudité.
Recipe by Kaitlyn Hoefert
Photos by Rachel Wisniewski