Spring is the perfect time to cook with radishes

Mary Ann Esposito shares her recipes for Chicken and Ginger Stir-Fry, Grated Radish Slaw and Roasted Radishes

The unassuming radish gains notoriety mostly as an overlooked, carved-rose garnish on a party appetizer platter, or thinly sliced and squished between small, buttered cubes of crustless bread that is served as a classic, crunchy French hors d’oeuvre. But, there is so much more radishes can offer a cook looking for a fresh vegetable this time of year (radishes are available year round but are at their best in winter and spring). 

Radishes were first cultivated in China and Egypt thousands of years ago, and today come in many different sizes, shapes and even color. Best known are the Cherry Belle variety, those round, red radishes that look like jewels and stand out in the produce aisle. But, there are also very thin, white tapered radishes known as icicle radishes as well as purple, yellow and black radishes. Farmers’ markets usually have a variety of these lesser-known types. Asian markets sell the daikon radish—cylindrical in shape and long, these are used in Japanese soups and stews as well as Chinese stir-fries.

Generally eaten raw, radishes are members of the mustard family, where they get that nice tangy and peppery flavor. And while radishes are delicious raw, they are also terrific roasted, grated, steamed and sautéed. They make a terrific side dish for roasted meats and chicken; salad slaws take on new tastes when made from grated radishes. They are even good pickled.

When buying radishes, look for firm, non-cracked bunches with smooth skin and vibrant green tops. Wilted leaves are a telltale sign that the radishes are past their prime. Don’t remove the tops until you’re ready to use them (the leaves can be chopped, and used in stir-fries or salads). Radishes can be stored for up to two weeks in the vegetable compartment of your refrigerator.

I like to grow radishes. Once the seed is sown, radishes are one of the earliest crops to pop up in the garden. I prefer to harvest radishes when they are a small size (larger ones tend to be dry and mealy).

Low in calories—just nineteen in a cup of sliced radishes—this vegetable is a great source of fiber, vitamin C, folic acid and potassium, as well as a good source of riboflavin, vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, copper and manganese. Adopt radishes as part of a healthy diet!

Chicken and Ginger Stir-Fry   
Recipe courtesy of Mary Ann Esposito
Serves 4
Chicken can be quickly prepared with daikon radishes in this stir-fry. Ginger and soy sauce add just the right amount of punch for flavor.

1 tablespoon cornstarch
1½ cups chicken broth
1 pound boneless chicken cutlets, cut into ½-inch-wide strips
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice Powder
Juice of 1 lemon
4 tablespoons sesame-seed oil, divided
2 carrots, peeled and julienned
1 small daikon radish, julienned
1 small bok choy, cut into thin strips
1 cup thinly sliced shitake mushrooms
2 tablespoons grated ginger

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and chicken broth, and set aside.

2. In a bowl, combine the chicken, garlic, soy sauce, Chinese Five Spice Powder and lemon juice. Toss well to combine and marinate for 15 minutes.

3. In a wok or large sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the sesame oil over medium heat. Add carrots and daikon, and cook quickly for 2–3 minutes. Add the bok choy and cook until it begins to soften. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring constantly until they begin to soften. Transfer the mixture to a bowl.

4. Add the remaining sesame oil to the pan over medium-high heat. Drain the chicken (reserve the marinade), and add the chicken and ginger to the pan. Cook, stirring often until the chicken browns. Stir the marinade into the cornstarch mixture and add to the pan. Cook over high heat, stirring until the sauce begins to thicken.

5. Serve over cooked rice or noodles.

Grated Radish Slaw  
Recipe courtesy of Mary Ann Esposito
Serves 4–6
This colorful and healthy radish slaw is a spin-off on the more commonly known  coleslaw salad. The radish version is perfect for company because it can be made ahead.

2 tablespoons rice-wine vinegar
2½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon caraway seed, crushed
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 garlic clove, minced
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
15–20 medium radishes, without leaves, grated
1 large carrot, peeled and grated

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, oil, honey, caraway seed, parsley, garlic and salt.

2. Combine the radishes and carrots in a large salad bowl. Add the dressing and toss well.

3. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour before serving.

Roasted Radishes
Recipe courtesy of Mary Ann Esposito
Serves 4

What a nice surprise! Radishes are delicious roasted and a perfect side dish for meat or poultry.

2 bunches radishes, trimmed and cut in half lengthwise
1tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
½ teaspoon salt
Grinding black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Combine all ingredients and spread on a nonstick baking sheet. Roast for 20–25 minutes,  or until the radishes begin to brown around the edges and are fork tender.

Categories: Food & Recipes