The Air at the Top of the Bottle

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Cooking with Radishes

December 22nd, 2014 · 4 Comments

Let us sing the simple radish,
Always chic but never faddish,
Sing its praise and not its kaddish,
Let us sing the simple radish.

Radishes are tasty, inexpensive, crunchy, high in vitamins, and low in calories.  Naturally, this makes them unpopular in the US, where people prefer bland and fatty foods.  Radishes have played an important part in the Ullage Group kitchen lately; so, in this season of nasty heavy holiday food, here is some lighter fare.

I’ve never been a fan of radishes in salad; I don’t think they go well with lettuce.  One of my favorite ways to eat them is with salt, washed down with cold ale.

Radishes have traditionally been eaten for breakfast, with bread and butter.  This is nice enough, if you like bread and butter; the radishes add some flavor to the bland tartine.  The leaves, by the way, are quite tasty, and you can top bread and butter with them too, in a variation of the old-fashioned lettuce sandwich (as jazz buffs know, Johnny Hodges’s favorite snack).

Like all root vegetables, radishes can be cooked in different ways, although I suppose you lose some vitamins.  Radishes and baby red potatoes look a lot alike; you can boil them together, and enjoy them with salt and butter.

If you’d like to saute them, you can try this.  First, saute parsley and chopped garlic in olive oil until brown.  Then add sliced mushrooms and radishes, with water and salt.  When the water has cooked away, add a splash of white wine or marsala.  You can put this on pasta, if noodles beckon.

Samuel Pepys noted in his diary that he ate buttered radishes.  This has puzzled some commentators, who assumed he ate them raw.  I suspect, though, that he roasted them.  You can do that too, by simply wrapping them in foil, or dumping them in a casserole dish, with butter or olive oil, and letting them sit in an oven for a while.  I usually add garlic, sage, and other root vegetables: potatoes, yams, turnips, carrots, parsnips.  Black radishes, which are larger and woodier, are good this way too.

If the season makes you saddish,
Cheer up with the simple radish.

POSTSCRIPT:  I have just been informed that, coincidentally, December 23 is the Noche de Rabanos in Oaxaca, Mexico.  Large radishes are carved with faces, the way pumpkins are carved for Halloween in this country.  You could try that too.

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

Tags: Dietary Mores

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 mamie // Dec 24, 2014 at 6:04 pm

    Yum! You’re making me hungry!

  • 2 Doug // Dec 25, 2014 at 11:47 am

    Start slicing those radishes!

  • 3 RS Cussons // Jan 18, 2015 at 7:36 am

    I wonder if you might know anything about the Ullage Cup? I have come across a small cup with “Ullage Cup” on it, and dated 1928 with a name on it, and wondered what it might be for, or whether there is a village called ullage? Can you help? Best Regards, RS Cussons

  • 4 Doug // Jan 18, 2015 at 10:51 pm

    No, I never heard of it. “Ullage” is a vintners’ term, so it may have been a wine prize. It was also a slang term for “worthless,” so it may have been a booby prize for some event. Curious!

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