Early spring can be a frustrating time in the kitchen. There’s a warm breeze and the world seems to be exploding with new life, but the produce aisle is full of the same old root and cruciferous vegetables you’ve been eating all winter.
What’s a cook to do?
Last week, I turned to radishes. A bright punch of color in the bedraggled produce bin, the purple-and-white bunch begged to come home with me. But what to do with them? As much as I love my “French Breakfast Sandwich” – butter, sliced radishes, and coarse salt open-faced on thick sweet whole-grain bread – I wanted a nice side dish that would be seasonal yet warming on a chilly spring evening.
I found the answer in James Peterson’s Vegetables, where he suggested braising radishes as you would baby turnips. I tried it, and the preparation was both simple and delicious. The radishes turned out glossy, tender, sweet but not at all cloying, and wonderfully juicy. I was amused that the color washed off the purple radishes and onto the white ones, leaving me with a spectrum of lavenders.
Give this a try. It’s delicious, and perfect for the season.
1 bunch radishes, tops and tails trimmed (leave 1/4 inch of top if it’s pretty and green)
1/2 tablespoon butter
Pinch each sugar and salt
Freshly ground black pepper, if desired
Place the radishes in a small skillet. Pour in water to come about halfway up the sides of the vegetables, and add the butter, sugar and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to bring the radishes to a simmer. Loosely cover with a lid or a piece of aluminum foil, and simmer 15 minutes.
Check to see that the radishes can be poked through with a small paring knife or skewer. (There should still be a little resistance.) If they don’t seem done enough, simmer a few more minutes.
Remove the lid and turn heat back to high. The liquid will boil rapidly and begin to evaporate. When the liquid is reduced to a glaze, gently shake the pan to coat the radishes. Grind a little pepper over and serve immediately.
Serves 2 as a side dish.