Saturday, June 10, 2006

Under the Spreading Chestnut Trees - WHB

In the summer, under gigantic hundred year old chestnut trees that shade dozens of families from the withering sun while relaxing on evenings or weekends, sitting on wooden benches shoulder to shoulder, ‘cheek’ to ‘cheek’, so to speak, bikes with child carriers parked nearby, with picnic style dinners or lunches and huge cool glasses of beer sitting on sturdy tables, the kids having fun with a tumble of other kids in the play area nearby.

That’s how I first developed a real love of radishes.

Giant white radishes. Cut in a circular fashion. Salted. Sprinkled with chives. Piled high on a plate. Of course, they have a special radish cutting tool that helps cut the radish in a perfect spiral shape.An unexpectedly good accompaniment to a Bavarian style Hefe-Weiβbier and pretzels.

We grew radishes when I was young. Red ones. But I can’t say that they made much of an impression on me. We ate them raw. Usually whole. Sometimes chopped or grated into a salad. But we ate them rarely. I don’t think anyone really appreciated their peppery flavor then.

But in Munich, in the beer gardens, that’s where I learned to love the radish.

So, this weekend, it's radishes for , sponsored by , and hosted this week by .

It turns out that the most popular radish by far is the daikon white radish. Consumed in mass quantities in Japan and all over Asia. Based on several reports I read, the white radish constitutes a whooping one third of all vegetation grown in Japan in terms of tonnage. That’s a bunch!

Pickled, dried, salted, it is consumed in every possible manner at every possible occasion.

In the US, the tings are not nearly so popular. They pop up in salads in the summer, more as a statement of summer than for any particular affinity for their flavor.

The radish, it turns out, is edible in it’s entirety. Greens and all. I’ve tried radish greens a number of times. In salads, mainly. Good on occasion. A little bitter. But a nice contrast to other greens and a possible balance to a fatty main dish.

The things seems easy to grown. And they grow quickly, in as little as 30 days from germination to finished produce.

Some of the Web sites listed noted their nutritional value, but it does not seem spectacular. Vitamin C, roughage, and an enzyme diastase which aids in digestion, are the main nutritional components. The leaves are high in iron and vitamin C.

vegetabletravelers - radishes
http://wikipedia - radish
getty guide - radish art

But the flavor is nice. A pleasant, mild, peppery, spicy punch. As a member of the mustard family, that is not surprising.

This flavor has been enjoyed for thousand and thousands of years. It seems that the radish originated in China. Hence it’s broad use and influence throughout Asia. It migrated west to the middle East and Greece, Rome, and then on to eastern Europe, France, and eventually England.

The Germans, as noted, seem to primarily eat the white radish. In France, they prefer a black-skinned variety. There are also pink, streaked, and small white varieties. In the US, outside of areas with a large Asian population, the small red radish clearly predominates. But here in SoCal, the Daikon is king!

I tend to prefer the white long radish myself. But this weekend, I made some radishes in a manner that we all really enjoyed last summer – we pan-roasted some small red ones in olive oil, just until they browned a bit, caramelized a little, and softened. This adds a new dimension to the peppery radish flavor. You still get some of the peppery flavor, but now with a nice roasted background. And it takes just a bit of the crunch away. Not mushy, but just a nice bite.

We combined this with some pan-roasted fennel, and put a light orange-thyme vinaigrette on it. Very nice. A few fennel fronds for decoration.

This is a nice dish to serve along side a cheesy or fatty main dish, because it is super light, and the clean peppery orange flavors cut through anything heavy.

Pan-Roasted Radish and Fennel Salad with Orange-Thyme Vinaigrette
Recipe by surfindaave

2 bunches small red radishes, cut from leaves, washed, trimmed, and cut in half
1 fennel bulb, washed, trimmed, and cut in half, then into slices
olive oil
1-2 oranges, juiced
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, removed from stems
Snipped fennel fronds, for garnish, if desired

Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan. Sautee the red radishes, cut side down, over medium high heat, until they are browned. Add the sliced fennel, and sauté until slightly softened. Don’t overcook, or the fennel flavor will be gone. Remove to a bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk together orange juice, thyme, salt and pepper. Add olive oil in a stream, whisking, to taste. Taste, and season again with salt and pepper as necessary. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss. Garnish with snipped fennel fronds, if desired. Serve. Enjoy!

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Blogger Kalyn said...

I was writing this week about how I discovered that radishes go so well with Gorgonzola cheese. (Of course, we have already agreed with each other that just about anything tastes good with gorgonzola, but the red radishes I had were delightful with it.) I haven't cooked them before and would love to try it. I do have a recipe somewhere from a Chinese cooking class where you smash the radish with our cleaver and eat them with lots of garlic.

8:23 AM  
Blogger Anna said...

Oooohhhh! This recipe looks pretty tasty to me.

1:09 AM  
Blogger cookiecrumb said...

Very nice! I'm so overdosed on radishes right now, but I don't want to quit. Thanks for the spin. Cooked! Caramelized! yesss.

8:55 AM  
Anonymous heza said...

Thanks so much... I looking for a photo of how to use a Radish cutter. I just bought one in Marienplatz after seeing one used at a beer garten.

11:12 AM  
Blogger Anna said...

hope you don't mind, but i put a link to this recipe on my blog. let me know if that's a problem.

12:39 AM  

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