I don't get around to cooking with and eating radishes as often as I would like to, and it's not because I don't love them. I do adore their spicy, pungent, pleasant bitterness. That crisp bite. And best of all, that jewel-like beauty. Radishes have got to be one of the prettiest vegetables on the market and they look appetizing and gorgeous on a plate.
But I mostly like my vegetables cooked, and radishes appear to lend themselves better to uncooked foods, like salads.
Another reason, perhaps, is that I came to the small, round, deep-pink variety later in life. In India, the only radish I knew growing up was the daikon -- that long, white, rather intimidating-looking root -- which is chopped up with the greens and sauteed for a very tasty sabzi or side. You can also roll it out within the folds of a paratha, or toss it into a dal or a sambar, and it's divine. (I've added the little radishes to sambar too, and they work just as well.)
Recently, I came across a radish recipe from David Tanis who writes evocative, unusual vegetable recipes like Eggplant Soup and Roasted Coconut Carrots in his New York Times column. The radish recipe called for a hefty amount of butter, but I did love the idea of transforming that lovely, crisp bite of the radish into butter-softness.
So at the market, I picked up some radishes. Jay, who had never eaten them before, asked if they were a fruit and wanted to eat them rightaway. When I told him they were a vegetable, his ardor cooled down (only slightly -- he does love some vegetables and will eat most), but I knew the recipe I had in mind would win him back.
I also wanted to try out some lavender, and this seemed like the perfect recipe for it. I have somehow never thought of lavender as an edible herb although it very much is one, and I bought a potted lavender this year with the full intention of attempting to eat it.
I loved the way this recipe turned out. Instead of butter, I braised the radishes with a flavorsome vegetable stock, salt, pepper, and shallots. And in the end I added a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil for some fresh, green flavor. The radishes were excellent: once braised, they turn a pretty, paler pink, and the texture is truly butter-soft. Their earthy, slightly bitter taste is complemented nicely by the fresh, fragrant lavender.
This would be a wonderful side to serve with some shepherd's pie, or tart. Or you could just smush them over some buttered toast, take a hungry bite, and, for a moment, feel completely at peace with the world.
Braised Radishes with Lavender
- Mix all the ingredients except the lavender and olive oil in a cast-iron or other saucepan.
- Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low, cover the pan, and let the radishes cook about 15 minutes or until a knife pierced through goes cleanly through.
- If there is any liquid remaining, take off the lid and let it evaporate.
- Check salt and pepper and add more if needed. Drizzle on the lavender and the olive oil.