Ideas for Eating French Breakfast Radishes
Radishes can be divisive. Working Red Dog’s stall at the Port Townsend Farmers Market last year, I encountered many radish lovers who eagerly scooped up four or five bunches at a time, and nearly as many outspoken radish skeptics. Now French breakfast radishes are back, in our fields, in your CSA share, and on the shelves of the Red Dog Farmstand. Love them or hate them, everyone seems to admire the French breakfast radish’s elegant elongated shape and dramatic white/magenta color combination. Their undeniable beauty and comparatively mild flavor makes the F.B. the perfect gateway radish to tempt the unconvinced.
As a long-time unabashed radish ravisher, I was initially confused by the question, “What do you do with them?” Gobble them up plain, of course! But as I’ve learned, there are many more interesting ways to answer this question. One famed method, traditional in France (and therefore perhaps most appropriate for French breakfast radishes), is to dip each radish in butter and salt it before devouring. Like many others, I like to also add toast into the mix, layering sliced radishes on buttered toast and topping with salt, pepper, hot sauce, and perhaps a few sprigs of salad. Any fatty spread can work to balance the sharp zing of the radish—I particularly like hummus for this purpose, but a yogurt- or cheese-based concoction would go just as well, as a dip, on toast, or in a sandwich.
One of my contributions to the Thanksgiving table this past year was quick-pickled radishes. I like them as a standalone garnish for guests to use as liberally as they please, but they’re also great mixed directly into a green salad. Quick pickling is much easier than I thought it would be when I first tasted quick-pickled radishes last summer, and can be easily adapted to please a variety of tastes.
Step One: Slice radishes thinly. A mandoline is great for this, but not required.
Step Two: Make a brine. Simply combine equal parts water and any kind of vinegar (enough total liquid to cover radishes in whatever container you’re using) and add salt and sugar to taste. Bring to a boil and remove from heat as soon as it reaches boiling point.
Step Three: Pour brine over radishes. Let them sit at room temperature for one hour before refrigerating; refrigerate 24 hours before eating for best flavor. They should keep a couple of weeks in the fridge.
And that’s it! You can also add spices such as peppercorns, red pepper flakes, dill seed, fennel seed, and garlic, or just keep it simple. Either way, quick pickling can be a great way for radish agnostics to learn to love these spicy and gorgeous root veggies.