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Food: Ravishing radishes

by Sue Barham
Special to the Daily Truffled Asparagus Salad
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It’s the long awaited Farmer’s Market season – the time to delight in fresh gifts of the earth. I’m always eager to see the first spring crops harvested, often they are heirloom varieties of a veggie more familiar. One of the early harvests is the French breakfast radish, sometimes called Red Flame. As the name suggests, it has an elongated shape, and its red top fades to a white tip.

Be adventurous as you poke through the farmers markets – gems like the red flame are not as unusual to the taste as they are to the eye. The French breakfast radish has a crisp texture and a mildly spicy yet delicately sweet flavor. It’s best eaten raw, and purists insist the only accompaniments needed are sweet butter, coarse salt and freshly cracked pepper.

The earliest history of French breakfast radishes can be traced to ancient Egypt. It is believed they were cultivated as a staple for the slaves building pyramids. Later, in the Victorian era, the British commonly served the red flames with breakfast or afternoon tea.

Like other root vegetables, radishes are plucked from the soil. Relatives of the turnip and horseradish family, the entire plant is edible. To store fresh radishes, separate the root from its greens and thoroughly wash both parts. Spin the greens or dry with paper towels and then taste them. Add to a salad for a spicy, mildly bitter kick. Then slice the radishes and add to the rest of your ingredients. At only 20 calories per cup and loaded with Vitamin C, radishes are a tasty, healthy addition to your diet.

“French breakfast radishes are not often found in local grocery stores,” said Dustin Beckner, Chef de Cuisine at Restaurant Avondale. “Comb the farmer’s markets to find them. Here in Colorado they grow in the spring and are one of the first harvests.”

If you find them, enjoy in the simplest of preparations – sliced on a sandwich, mixed into a dip, or adorning your salads, the French breakfast radish is a tasty, springtime treat.

1/2 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice

pinch of sea salt

1/4 cup half and half

2 Tablespoons minced chives

3 cups torn butter lettuce

8 French breakfast radishes, washed, thinly sliced, and leaves reserved

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temp

zest of 1 lemon

4 slices pumpernickel bread

coarse sea salt

Make dressing: Combine lemon juice and salt well. Add half and half and chives; blend well. Season to taste.

Set aside one quarter of the radishes, then cut remaining radish slices into thin strips. Finely chop the radish leaves. Place radishes and leaves on paper towels to absorb excess moisture. Combine butter and lemon zest. Add radish strips and chopped radish leaves and mash everything together. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Spread mixture on toasted rye bread slices. Add radish rounds on top, sprinkle with a bit of sea salt and drizzle dressing over.

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup finely chopped radishes

2 tablespoons finely chopped scallions

1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and mix well. Serve on toasted bagels. (Variation: Mix in enough half and half to ‘dip’ consistency, then serve with crudite, including some whole French breakfast radishes.)

1 cup quinoa, red or white or mixed, soaked and freshly sprouted

6 French breakfast radishes, sliced on the diagonal

1/2 small red onion, finely diced

1/2 pint quartered cherry tomatoes

1 Tablespoon diced green olive

12 Tablespoon capers

2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley

Dressing:

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

sea salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

Mix dressing ingredients and whisk together well. Combine other ingredients in large bowl. Pour dressing over and stir gently to coat. Allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to let flavors meld. Serves 4 as a side dish; a refreshing accompaniment to grilled meats.

1 pound asparagus, roasted

6 French breakfast radishes, shaved lengthwise

2 cups frisee

2 cups rocket (arugula)

2 Tablespoons minced chives

1.2 pound serrano ham, shaved thin

1/4 pound grana padano (or parmesan cheese), shaved thin

Sea salt

Freshly cracked black pepper

Dressing:

1/2 cup truffle oil

1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/8 cup canola oil

2-3 lemons, juiced

1 small shallot, minced

Combine dressing ingredients and whisk well. Combine frisee, rocket, asparagus, chives, serrano, and radishes in a large bowl (reserve some radishes for garnish). Toss lightly with dressing (you may not need to use all of it). Arrange salads on four plates. Garnish with reserved radishes and grana padano. Season with salt and pepper. Serves 4.

Sue Barham is the marketing director for Larkspur Restaurant and Restaurant Avondale. Larkspur, (larkspurvail.com) at the base of Vail Mountain, has been serving American Classics with a fresh interpretation since 1999. Avondale, (avondalerestaurant.com) opened in September 2008 in the Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa and features a West Coast inspired, market driven menu.


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