The radish is having a well-deserved spin in the spotlight. In Oaxaca, Mexicans travel far and wide to witness La Noche de Rábanos (“the night of the radishes,”) during which giant red and white radishes are carved to spectacular effect: nativity scenes, radish parties, and so on.
Come spring, the rosy root dominates foodie social media. Whether it’s a classic round radish plated whole with soft butter and sea salt or a watermelon radish sliced thin to reveal kaleidoscopic patterns, the radish is ready for its closeup.
Do you know your radishes? Did you know that horseradish is, in fact, a radish? Nowadays a whole new world of the root vegetable is available at the market.
There’s the classic round radish which comes in colors as varied as red, white and purple. Brightly flavored, crunchy, and easily pickled, they are often marketed as “Easter egg radishes,” because their varied hues conjure an Easter egg hunt. Black radishes, sometimes called Spanish radishes, have an ebony skin and a creamy-white interior. Gorgeous as garnishes, they tend to have a sharp bite that baking—as for a gratin—mellows. French breakfast radishes are the ones you tend to see plated with butter and sea salt; they are generally milder than round radishes. Daikon, the famed Asian radish, is generally found pickled or dried, but when freshly harvested, cooked and tossed into a soup, it’s a delight thanks to its mild flavor profile.
Perhaps the most gorgeous radish is the watermelon radish. They are marvelous sliced thin using a V-slicer or mandoline, and used to garnish—or be the backbone—of salads. With a verdant exterior and popping-pink interior, they add pizzazz to whatever they touch. Witness an otherwise simple Little Gems with Green Goddess Dressing or the bowl of mixed greens above! Here are a few more radish recipes to get in the groove on right now, plus one perfect for the early months of spring.
Is this a restaurant or are you at home? Pickled watermelon radishes add a “here’s the check” level of impressiveness to Andrea Nguyen’s gorgeous noodle bowl with pork skewers. A flurry of roast peanuts and fried shallots complete this vision of a Vietnamese standby. (It’s good-looking enough to serve to thrilled company!)
A really good mandoline is key to making these salad look as dreamy as it does here. When cucumbers, fennel and radishes are sliced equally thin, they are a textural delight. We particularly love the dressing, which mingles Dijon mustard, Champagne vinegar, honey, chives and dill.
James Beard Award–winning chef Michael Solomonov is the genius mind behind this super-fresh salad. Thinly sliced radishes and raw grated zucchini nestle together under a flurry of nutty nigella seeds. Lemon juice, mint and olive oil unite the flavors. This is the sort of unusual salad that absolutely delights guests.
4. Watermelon Radish Salad with Herbed Cheese Blood Orange & Chives
Last, but not least, is this inspired blend of watermelon radishes with blood oranges and jicama. A good V-slicer or mandoline does double duty here—the best tool for shaving the radishes into paper-thin slices and the jicama into uniform matchsticks.
For the vinaigrette:
1 blood orange
1 shallot, minced
2 Tbs fresh lemon juice
⅛ tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup (60 ml) grapeseed oil
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 blood oranges
1/2 small jicama, about 3/4 lb (375 g), peeled and cut into 1/8-inch (3-mm) matchsticks
4 tbsp (1/2 oz/15 g) finely snipped fresh chives
11/2 Tbs coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 watermelon radishes, peeled and thinly shaved crosswise
9 oz (280 g) very cold goat cheese
To make the vinaigrette, use a serrated knife to cut a thick slice off the top and bottom of the orange. Stand it upright and, following the contour of the fruit, carefully slice downward to remove the peel, pith, and membrane. Holding the fruit over a large, shallow bowl to catch the juices, cut on either side of each segment to free it from the membrane. Squeeze the membrane to release the juice into the bowl. Cut the segments crosswise into small pieces, discarding any seeds, and add to the bowl. Add the shallot, lemon juice, cayenne, salt and black pepper. Whisking constantly, slowly add the grapeseed oil and olive oil and whisk until well combined.
Peel the remaining oranges as directed above. Set the fruit on its side and cut crosswise into slices 1/4–1/2 inch (6–12 mm) thick, then cut the slices into halves, discarding any seeds. Add half of the blood oranges, the jicama, 2 tbsp of the chives and the parsley to the bowl with the vinaigrette and toss well. Let stand for 5 minutes.
Arrange the salad on individual plates. Place the watermelon radish slices on top, then scatter with the remaining blood oranges and 2 tbsp chives. Crumble the goat cheese over the salads and serve.
Adapted from Cooking in Season by Brigit Binns