Today’s Special: Versatile radish good either raw or cooked | Food

I used to think radishes were only suited for use as part of a crisp raw crudité platter. I hadn’t thought of eating them on their own until French cooking teacher Susan Hermann Loomis served them with softened unsalted butter and a sprinkling of sea salt, a delicious pairing that calmed the peppery bite of fresh radishes.

Another way to enjoy this raw radish and butter combination is an open-faced sandwich of buttered freshly baked whole wheat bread topped with thinly sliced radishes. Crunchy, spicy radishes add a punch to many dishes, whether sliced raw as a garnish, added to salads or served roasted as a side dish.

When radishes are cooked they become tender and juicy with a subtle sweet taste like young turnips. A simple way to cook radishes is to quickly simmer them in a small amount of water with a lump of butter and a little salt.

Like other root vegetables, they are good roasted. In a medium bowl toss trimmed and quartered radishes in extra virgin olive oil, a little salt and pepper, and some minced fresh herbs; transfer to a baking pan and bake at 425 degrees until crisp-tender for about 30 minutes, stirring once.

Radishes are available year-round but are at their peak from April through July. Radishes can be the size of a cherry or a carrot and range in color from bold reds pinks, and purples to plain white and black.

We are most familiar with the spicy red globe radishes, but the milder elongated French radishes, colorful watermelon radishes and white icicle radishes also readily available. Choose those that are plump, firm, smooth and free of cracks and blemishes. Store radishes in a perforated plastic bag in the crisper, where they will stay fresh for about a week.

“For a late-spring lunch or light dinner, make a salmon salad the centerpiece. Surround with tender hearts of butter lettuce and seasonal vegetables: California asparagus, radishes, and the first new potatoes in late spring; tomatoes, corn, and sweet red onions in summer.

“A vinaigrette whisked with fresh herbs and capers brings all the elements together,” says Janet Fletcher, author of “Wine Country Table: With Recipes that Celebrate California’s Sustainable Harvest.”

Warm Salmon Salad with Asparagus, Farm Eggs and Fingerling Potatoes

  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar, plus more if needed
  • 1 tablespoon Vietnamese fish sauce
  • 1 large shallot, finely minced
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon
  • 1 tablespoon salt-packed capers, rinsed and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup (extra virgin olive oil, plus more if needed
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • 1 pound fingerling potatoes, boiled until tender, drained, cooled, peeled, and sliced crosswise or halved lengthwise
  • 4 large eggs, simmered for 7 minutes, placed in iced water, peeled, and halved
  • 1 pound medium asparagus, tough ends removed, boiled in a large frying pan until tender, about 3 to 5 minutes, drained, chilled under cold running water, and patted dry.
  • Extra virgin olive oil for oiling the baking sheet
  • 4 skin-on wild salmon fillets, about 6 ounces each
  • Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 soft butter lettuce heart, separated into leaves
  • 12 radishes, trimmed and halved
  • 12 ripe olives

Make the vinaigrette: In a bowl, whisk together the vinegar, fish sauce, shallot, parsley, tarragon, and capers. Whisk in the olive oil. Season to taste with salt, then adjust the balance with more oil or vinegar if needed. Set aside for 30 minutes to allow the flavor to mellow.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet. Season the salmon with salt and pepper. Place skin side down on the baking sheet and bake until the flesh just flakes when probed with a fork, about 12 minutes.

While the salmon bakes, arrange a few lettuce leaves on each of four plates. Leaving room in the center for the salmon, arrange an equal amount of the potato slices, asparagus, radishes, and olives and 2 egg halves on each plate. With an offset spatula, lift the salmon fillets off of their skin and transfer to the plates, leaving the skin behind. Whisk the dressing and spoon it over the salads; you may not need it all.

Recipe adapted from: “Wine Country Table: With Recipes that Celebrate California’s Sustainable Harvest” by Janet Fletcher in collaboration with Wine Institute (Rizzoli International Publications, $45)

Carole Kotkin is manager of the Ocean Reef Club cooking school and co-host of Food & Wine Talk on southfloridagourmet.com. She writes this column for the Miami Herald and the Tribune News Service.

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