At the farmers market as in Hollywood, there are stars and there are character actors. The stars we know – tomatoes, peaches, asparagus, artichokes. The character actors are the ones that we never give a second though to, until we notice how often we've been using them. Right now I'm thinking about radishes.
If you had asked me this morning how many recipes I have for radishes, I probably would have said something like "recipes for radishes? Are you nuts?" But searching through our California Cookbook recipe collection, much to my surprise I found at least 10.
Granted, in most of these recipes radishes do not play a starring role. But they always supply that critical bit of crunch and spice that turns what could be a humdrum dish into something special.
The radish world has exploded over the last several year. Once only available in red and round, radishes come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors.
There are sweet white Icicle radishes and fiery black radishes with a pungent trace of horseradish. The ever-popular French Breakfast radish is a pretty crimson blush with white tips. And the huge watermelon radish looks like something painted by a psychedelic artist — it takes a couple months to grow, and usually comes on a little later.
Most of these — with the possible exception of the fibrous black radish — can be used interchangeably, depending on the look you're going for and what's available at the market.
How to choose: Select radishes that have vivid green tops that look fresh; don't worry about any holes in the leaves, as that seems to go with the territory. The radishes themselves should be brightly colored without any splits or cuts. They should be firm when squeezed; sometimes they grow too fast and are hollow inside.
How to store: Radishes are fairly resilient. Keep them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator and they'll last a week in good condition. If you're going to keep them longer, remove the tops (they pull moisture from the root).