Combine earthy wild rice with buttery sautéed radishes, crunchy almonds, and salty feta for this satisfying spring side dish.
The older I get, the more I find myself appreciating foods I once detested. Most recently, it was radishes. I once thought radishes a bitter and boring nuisance, an unwelcome addition to salads that I’d either pick out or leave to drown in the pool of salad dressing that accumulated at the bottom of my bowl.
It turns out that radishes can do more than ruin a salad. At times, they can even improve a salad. As with anything else, it’s a matter of learning how to make them shine.
I first started thinking differently about radishes a couple of years ago when I roasted them for the first time. That’s right; I cooked radishes. It was a concept that had never crossed my mind until then. I had thought they were just used raw for garnishing. But cooking, especially roasting, brought out a hint of sweetness and depth I always thought radishes were lacking.
Grow your own radishes
Then I grew radishes in my garden. The difference between fresh radishes and the limp, flavorless ones in grocery stores is crazy. They’re definitely the kind of vegetable that is best eaten as soon as possible after picking. You never know how fresh anything is in the grocery store, no matter what they try to convince you. When I worked in the produce department of a store back in Connecticut, we’d take various tactics to revive old produce and trim or repack foods to keep them looking good for as long as possible. I’m not proud. But it motivated me to want to learn how to do better.
If you can, you should try growing your own, too. Just get a pack of seeds and plant some in a small patch of dirt. They don’t take up much room, aren’t very needy, and the common variety takes only about a month until they’re ready to eat. Keep them well watered and thin them as they grow. If you already have a garden, there’s no reason not to grow them. You can even grow radishes in containers. If you can’t be convinced to eat them, radishes are said to help improve the soil's nutrients as they grow.
If you can’t grow radishes, check your farmers market. They’re a cool-weather vegetable, and now is the time to find them before it gets too hot to grow them again until the fall. You’ll find several kinds of different radishes when fall approaches, such as the surprisingly vibrant watermelon radish, the large daikon radish, and the mysterious black radish.
How to keep radishes crisp
However you acquire your radishes, you want to keep them crisp. No one likes a soft radish. Trim off the roots and greens before storing. If young, the greens can be added to salads, while older, larger greens can be sautéed in oil with garlic. There are plenty of radish greens recipes out there, such as this beautiful looking pesto, for starters. You can put the radishes themselves in a jar of water in the fridge. The water will keep them from drying out. Or you can place the radishes in a plastic bag lined with moist paper towels. But like I said, the sooner you can eat them, the better.
While I may be coming around to the idea of radishes, you still won’t find me snacking on them right out of the garden any time soon. It doesn't take long to cook radishes no matter what method you use. Grilled, braised, roasted, and sautéed radishes are all worth a try.
There are many ways to cook a radish
To roast, halve the radishes depending on their size, toss with a little oil and salt, and roast at 450 degrees for about 15-20 minutes. To grill, it’s the same thing, but depending on how hot your grill gets — mine always gets hotter than necessary — it may take only 10 minutes. Use a grill basket to keep the radishes contained, and shake them around every few minutes. For sautéed radishes, I like to slice them rather thin and cook in butter over medium heat for just about three minutes, or until they start to turn golden.
Radishes and butter, the perfect pairing
One of the best friends of the radish is butter. I’ve read that people even eat them raw with cold butter. Weird. But I get it. Butter helps mellow the often strong bite that radishes can possess. I’d just rather cook them with butter, as the process of cooking also helps tame the flavor.
Once you’ve cooked radishes, how do you make them more than just a snack? They’re not big enough to serve as a side dish on their own. Raw radishes are fine in salads, pickled or chopped and thrown into tacos. While cooked ones can be incorporated into other dishes, such as rice, added into omelets, paired with other root vegetables and added to soups.
I mixed sautéed radishes into a wild rice blend along with some fresh herbs, feta, and almonds in this simple side dish. I used enough radishes to make them a prominent component of the dish and not an annoying addition I’d try to pick out.
Get to know wild rice
Note: I like to use a wild rice blend rather than 100% wild rice. Why? For starters, pure wild rice is not cheap. But it also has a strong flavor and texture that I find to be too much on its own. I much prefer the mix of grains in the blends, that offer a range of flavors and textures.
But a few quick facts about wild rice. Did you know that three of the four kinds of wild rice are native to North America? The fourth is from China. The grain grows in shallow waters, such as small lakes and streams. It was first grown commercially in the 1950s in Minnesota, where it remains the state grain today. However, Native Americans have harvested and eaten wild rice for many years, using it to make stews, stuffings, and puddings.Print