Radish and Harissa Salad to Make at Home

Excerpt from Ari’s Top 5 enews

Spicy summer salad you can put together in a matter of 10 minutes

One of my favorite spring vegetables, there’s little so tasty as a fresh, heirloom varietal radish out of the ground. Peppery, refreshing, lively, crunchy, cool, and compelling, this is a simple way to turn already great radishes into a spicy salad dish that’s even especially terrific. This radish and harissa salad can be completed in a matter of minutes, it’s great for summer meals, and it will travel well for picnics too!

To start with, swing by the Ann Arbor Farmers Market or Argus Farm Stop to find some of the great local radishes out there. Cut the radishes into reasonably good-sized chunks, say three-quarters of an inch across. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and let rest for a few minutes. Drain off any liquid. Toss the cut radishes with a bit of good extra virgin olive oil. Then add a few spoonfuls of the terrifically tasty traditional Tunisian Harissa we have on hand from the Moulins de Mahjoub. I have written extensively about their incredible work elsewhere but in the moment, I’ll just reference what I wrote in “A Taste of Zingerman’s Food Philosophy” in a different harissa-based recipe for harissa and roasted carrots:

This dish features the incredibly tasty and exceptionally versatile harissa we get from the Mahjoub family in Tunisia. The Mahjoubs have been farming the family lands, about 45 minutes west of Tunis, since 1896. Their passion for Tunisia, its culture, and its cooking, are an inspiration, as is their dedication to sustainable agriculture and their community. The family’s quality standards are uncompromising—everything I have tried from them is excellent. Their couscous, extra virgin olive oil, preserved lemons (cured for over six months in salt-brine), and all the products we get from them are beyond terrific. … The harissa is an old family recipe handed down from generation to generation. It’s made with three varieties of peppers that they grow, and their own tomatoes—all of which are grown organically and, as per tradition, sun-dried (it makes a big difference), blended with an array of spices and their olive oil (pressed from their own organic olives). I regularly put the harissa on pasta, serve it with fish, steak, sandwiches, and, of course, on the Mahjoub’s hand-rolled, sun-dried couscous.

You can leave the radish and harissa salad as simple as that if you like. The smooth spiciness of the harissa makes a great foil for the crunchiness of the radishes. I also like to add some chopped fresh herbs—flat-leaf Italian parsley, mint, or dill are a few that I like to turn to for this. You can actually use a little of all of them at the same time to increase the complexity and character of the dish. If you’re inclined towards a creamier sort of salad, start the same way, but then mix in some good yogurt—I’m a very big fan of the Bellwether Yogurt we stock at the Cream Top Shop. Made by the Callahan family out in northern California from the milk of their herd of Jersey cows, it’s really quite remarkable. The Jersey milk makes for a much richer, creamier, more complexly flavored yogurt that I could happily eat every day!

If you’re on your own and/or on the move, you can eat the salad straight out of the mixing bowl. Or, take two minutes and put it on a plate that you’ve lined with fresh arugula or local leaf lettuce. Grind on a bit of long pepper if you like too!