Food

The Saturday Cook: A radish recipe that’s an easy no-cook vegan appetizer

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This appetizer makes everyone happy: You can make it ahead, it’s fast and easy, it’s vegan, and it requires no utensils.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)
Cooking Editor

In this Instagram age, Technicolor radishes rule. But these springtime root vegetables are as innocent as Peter Rabbit. They look adorable, but they’re sneaky. Packed in their refreshing crunch is a peppery heat bordering on tongue-tingling spicy.

To temper the heat, you can stovetop-sauté or oven-roast the radishes so that they soften, sweeten and take on a caramelized nutty taste and juicy texture. While they’re delicious cooked, raw ones can retain their crispness and mellow out at the same time. The secret? Fat and salt.

Think of those red radish wedges in your taco. Sure, they help cut through the richness of carnitas, barbacoa and carne asada. In exchange, the savory meat with all its fatty juices softens the bite of the radishes.

The French go for the same effect with butter and sea salt. They dip radishes right into a softened butter slab or slather butter on baguettes, shingle radish slices on top, and then sprinkle the dishes with salt.

Taking inspiration from the simple radish-butter-salt treatment, I created this easy appetizer, swapping in coconut oil and sesame seeds to double up on tasty fat while keeping these bites plant-based. Because coconut oil liquifies at room temperature and hardens when chilled, it clings to radishes in a thin sheen while holding the seeds and salt when refrigerated. That makes these ideal appetizers for entertaining. You can make them ahead of time and simply keep them in the cooler until guests arrive. They can pick up the radishes by their stems and enjoy them in one or two bites. You can do the same for a snack. No utensils necessary.

The technique is easy and, this time of year, so is finding good radishes. Look for firm ones with perky greens. If some leaves are starting to yellow, just discard them.

This dish works best with smaller radishes. Red rounds remain a solid choice with a middle-of-the-road pepperiness. Easter egg radishes taste the same but come in pretty pinks and purples. Slender, oblong French breakfast radishes — très chic with pink tops and white bottoms — are milder. Insta-worthy watermelon radishes come hot pink inside and lime green outside with a less-watery crunch. They can get pretty big, so cut them into bite-size wedges if needed.

You can find all those varieties and more at farmers markets or you can grow them on your own. They take a month or so to go from seed to ready-to-eat. And this recipe comes together in minutes, keeping the integrity of the radishes while making them even more delicious.

Radishes With Sesame Salt

10 minutes. Serves 6 to 8.

You need to melt more coconut oil than you’ll use to coat the radishes. But don’t be tempted to slather on more as coconut oil has a strong tropical taste and can overpower the delicate radishes.

1 bunch radishes (10 to 12 ounces)

3 tablespoons virgin coconut oil

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds, white or black or a combination

½ teaspoon coarse sea salt, such as fleur de sel

1 Wash the radishes well and rub dry with paper towels. Discard any yellow or wilting leaves, but keep the stems intact. If the radishes are larger than 1 inch in diameter, halve or quarter lengthwise.

2 Melt the coconut oil either by heating in a small saucepan over low heat or microwaving in a small bowl in 5-second increments.

3 Line a large plate or rimmed baking sheet with parchment or wax paper. Dip the bottom half of a radish into the oil, shake off excess, then sprinkle the oil-coated half with some sesame seeds and a tiny pinch of salt. Put on the prepared plate. Repeat with the remaining radishes, oil, sesame seeds and salt.

4 Refrigerate uncovered until the oil hardens, at least 5 minutes. Serve cold.

Make ahead: The radishes can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days.