A Great Way to Use Fresh Radishes!

Excerpt from Ari’s Top 5 enews

A super-simple spring pleasure to put on your table at home today

One of my favorite parts of spring eating is this amazingly simple and super delicious little “appetizer.” It’s a coming together of fresh radishes and fresh bread, great butter, and a small sprinkle of sea salt, that wakes up taste buds and, as per what I wrote about in “A Taste of Zingerman’s Food Philosophy,” conveys the beauty of what’s possible when we put together really great ingredients. 

Radishes, right now, are really good around Ann Arbor! Pink and white, small and large, long and round, with their greens still attached or without, these fresh radishes are hot, spicy, refreshing, lively, and lovely. When you eat a freshly dug, heirloom radish it can easily become the highlight of your meal. While supermarket ones tend towards tastelessness, really great local radishes are alive, crunchy, and spicy—sometimes so much so that they start to seriously clear your sinuses the way good Dijon mustard can do. Which makes complete botanical sense because, although few Americans are aware of radishes’ roots, they’re in the same spicy plant family as mustard and turnips.

Radishes that are that good are excellent on their own and they’re also amazing in this classic-in-France-but-barely-known-over-here combination of radishes, bread, butter, and sea salt. Because it’s so simple, you only want to do this with really great ingredients. (A supermarket version of it, to be honest, wouldn’t be worth the time it took to slice the radishes.) To put the dish together, start by cutting some thickish slices of the Bakehouse’s dark-crusted Country Miche (preferably from the large, 2-kilo loaf), True North, or Farm bread. Spread the bread with some good butter, like the Vermont Creamery cultured butter that wins raves pretty much every few minutes when folks eat it on the Bakehouse Artisan Bread appetizer. Slice your radishes. Lay them onto the buttered bread. Sprinkle on a good bit of the super delicate crystals of fleur de sel, then eat. That’s all you have to do. 

You get the crunch and the spice of the radishes, offset by the light, lactic, lively creaminess of the cultured butter, set off against the dark, wheatiness of the Country Miche, all enhanced by the sporadic delicately crunchy high notes of the salt crystals. If you put them out on a nice plate or tray, everyone at the table can assemble the ingredients in their own way, which I’d argue, is part of the artistry of it all. 

One alternative if you want to make this a bit fancier is to slice the radishes part way through, stuff them with softened butter, and then dip the open end into the salt. That way folks can pick them up and pop them into their mouths and enjoy the contrast of textures and flavors just as they are.