Simply Fresh by Julie Wern

What a spring this has been.  Each time I have come to the farm, it has been pouring rain.  Funny, how much you start considering the weather when you are a CSA member.  Hope we soon get enough sunshine to balance out all this rain!

Featured Item—Radishes

Radishes are a root vegetable that I didn’t learn to love until I was an adult.  Perhaps their peppery bite turned me off. But I can’t get enough of them now.  For years I only ate them raw in salads.  However, once I tried them cooked, I was truly hooked.  Radishes are genuinely more versatile in the kitchen than they get credit for.

Red radish varieties are most common in the United States.  They have a sharp bite and can be quite crisp.  However, there are several other varieties of radishes that vary in color, spice level, and preferred growing conditions.  They are all members of the Brassica family, which as I mentioned in my last post, includes so many of the varieties of veggies we are receiving from the farm at this time of year:  cabbage, mustard greens, turnips, Joi choi.  This family also includes other items we may be sampling later on the season such as cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, rutabaga, broccoli, and kale.

Radishes are so well known for their roots, that many folks don’t even realize the greens are edible.  In fact, supermarkets often trim up the roots and leave off the greens altogether.  This is a big shame, as radish greens are a fun, delicious, and highly nutritious vegetable.  When raw, I love their light peppery bite and unique texture.  Cooked, they mellow and become almost indistinguishable from any other tender green.

Radish roots and greens have a great nutritional profile.  While both the roots and the greens are quite high in Vitamin C, overall the greens contain higher amounts of vitamins, protein, calcium, fiber, and minerals.  Yet on their own, radish roots are about 94% water, almost fat free, contain no cholesterol, and provide important vitamins and minerals, which makes them a great healthful, low calorie food source.  Radishes, like other Brassica siblings, are high in antioxidant properties, including components that help fight various cancers.

When choosing radishes, select roots that look crisp without holes, cracks, or soft spots. Radish tops should be bright green and crisp.  Avoid yellowed, limp, or blackened leaves.  When you bring your radishes home from the farm, immediately cut off the roots (leaving about an inch of stem) from the leaves and store the roots and leaves separately in plastic bags.  The reason for this is that the roots will draw water and nutrients from the leaves if they are left intact too long.  The roots will keep for a few weeks in the refrigerator, while the leaves should be used within 3-4 days.

There is no doubt that raw radishes are delicious.  Use them in salads, as crudités, on sandwiches, as a base for an hors d’oeuvre, or even as a topping for tacos, burritos, or soups/stews.

Radishes become wonderfully sweet and succulent when cooked.  Try roasting or pan frying them, or cooking them in a bit of braising liquid (like orange juice, broth, wine/spirits, olive oil).  They can also be steamed.

Below I offer you two radish recipes.  One is a simple roasted radish, and the other uses the entire plant, from roots to leaves, in a salad.  Do try something different with your radishes sometime….I promise you won’t be disappointed.

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Beware these roasted radishes are positively addictive!

Simple Roasted Radishes                                                                        Serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

– About 6-8 radish roots, small ones quartered, large ones cut in eighths

– 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

– 1/4-teaspoon Kosher salt

– 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

METHOD:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Cover a rimmed baking sheet with a sheet of foil.  Spray or brush foil with olive oil.  Toss radishes with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Spread out on baking sheet.  Bake, stirring a couple of times, about 15 minutes, or until radishes are nicely caramelized and tender.

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Radish and Cannellini Bean Salad with Lemon Dressing            Serves 2-3

INGREDIENTS:

– Dressing:

– zest of one lemon

– 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

– 1 tablespoon orange juice

– 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard

– 1/2 clove garlic, crushed

– 1 teaspoon agave nectar or honey

– 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

– salt and pepper to taste

– Salad:

– 5 radish roots, thinly sliced

– 1 15 ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

– 1 tablespoon minced chives

– 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

– 2 cups radish greens, sliced into thin ribbons

METHOD:

1. For Dressing:  Using a hand blender, blend all dressing ingredients until smooth and emulsified.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

2. For salad:  In a small bowl, toss radish greens with dressing to taste.  Arrange on a serving plate.  In same bowl, toss sliced radishes, beans, chives, and pine nuts with the dressing to taste.  Season with salt and pepper.  Arrange over greens and serve immediately.

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Hakurei turnips are another one of the Brassica root/greens combo that is surprisingly good both raw and cooked.  We enjoyed this cooked side dish that used both the roots and leaves at the same time.

Brown Butter & Brown Sugar Glazed Harukei Turnips w/Greens            Serves 2-3

INGREDIENTS:

– 1 bunch Harukei turnips with leaves, roots trimmed, stemmed and chopped into 1″ pieces.  Wash greens well.

– 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

– 1 tablespoon brown sugar

– 1 large clove garlic, minced

– 1-2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste

– 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

– freshly ground black pepper, to taste

METHOD:

Heat butter in a non-stick skillet over medium heat until browned, about 5 minutes.  Add turnip pieces and cook, stirring frequently, until turnips are crisp tender and beginning to caramelize, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.  Add just washed greens (with water still clinging to leaves).  Cook, stirring occasionally, until greens are wilted and tender and water is cooked off, about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Add lemon juice and salt and pepper, to taste.  Serve

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