In the past, I’ve always thought of radishes as kind of a poor cousin to beets: smaller and more anemic, they obviously missed out on the family jewels. Without well-heeled connections or an established vocation, they’re much like the street punk with the pugilistic attitude, slamming your jaw with a peppery punch every time you dare take a bite.
And besides, radishes seem to me more or less a one-hit wonder: like the obnoxious neighbour (you know the guy: loud, grating voice; beer belly) who always gets drunk at the annual Bar B Q and tells the same joke every year, radishes were used for one thing and one thing only: salad. And they were always raw. And they were always sliced. Not horrible, but not exactly inspiring, either. Sort of like Julia Roberts: no matter what the context, no matter what else surrounds them, no matter what time of year, they’re always pretty much exactly themselves. Even when carved into one of those fancy garnish “roses”–a radish is a radish is a radish.
Well, last week, I intended to change all that.
I’ve been hanging on to this recipe, originally from the LCBO’s Food and Drink Magazine from early 2004 (LCBO is “Liquor Control Board of Ontario”–that’s right, the government is the sole purveyor of alcohol in our time-warped province), since I first saw it. I’d kept it all this time simply because I loved the photo in the magazine so much (have you ever seen the production values of that mag? No wonder the Ontario government is short on cash). Well, I can thank my blogging habit once again for prompting me to finally make the dish and take my own shot of the colorful mix.
It must have been some weird synergy in the not-quite-summer air, but in the interim since I made this salad, I’ve noticed two other bloggers with radish recipes as well: Lisa just whipped up some fabulous looking Potato and Radish Salad, and Karen actually roasted the little roots, something I’ve never thought to do (she swears they’re pretty darned good that way).
This salad was deceptively simple–only seven ingredients–but it was the particular combination that sounded so enticing. Radishes, sliced paper-thin (unfortunatelly, not in my case–must get that mandoline!), embraced by thick, juicy wedges of grapefruit; with thin rounds of young green onion and glossy olives tinted like black plums scattered throughout. Like a little dinner party with your most eclectic group of friends, all in one place!
It came together in no time at all, and didn’t disappoint. The result was unusual, yes, but oddly pleasing: tart, salty, peppery, juicy–the perfect side to a light summer dinner of lentil patties (more on those anon).
Based on this salad, I’d say the lowly radish has finally broken free from the previously predictable, nondescript dishes it’s graced in the past. I actually enjoyed experiencing the radish in a starring role in this dish.
Now, if only I could say the same for Ms. Roberts.
Radish and Grapefruit Salad
from Food and Drink, Spring 2004
Crisp and light, this will remind you of summer, even though it can be prepared any time of year. The singular mix of flavors and textures creates a uniquely appealing salad. The original instructions advise: “Do not add the dressing until just before serving or else the salad will give off too much liquid.”
4 small grapefruit [I used a mixture of white and red]
4 green onions, thinly sliced [I used the white and some of the green parts]
1/2 cup (125 ml.) pitted black olives
12 radishes, thinly sliced
1/4 cup (60 ml.) extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp. (45 ml.) grapefruit juice
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Peel the grapefruit and cut into sections over a bowl, to catch the juice (this should give you enough juice–or more than enough–to make the dressing). Place the grapefruit sections, green onions, olives and radishes in a salad bowl. Chill until ready to serve.
Whisk together the dressing ingredients. Just before serving, pour dressing over the salad and gently toss together. Serves four. Best eaten right away.
TOTAL HEALTH CODA: Well, I can hardly believe it’s been six weeks already since I started this course–only three more to go! I can tell from the feel of my clothes that I’m going to be disappointed in the area of weight loss. However, I can say unequivocally that I’ve been eating more healthfully over the past six weeks than I was the six weeks before that. I’ve also discovered some wonderful new dishes that are both simple and nourishing.
Tonight’s topic was digestion and how to consume foods in a way that ensures optimum absorption of nutrients. Much of this was review from my nutrition school days, but good to hear again, nonetheless. And we’ve also each been asked to think about what kind of cleanse we’ll attempt before the course is over (it will be different for each of us, depending where we are in our diets when we begin). The wheels are turning already!