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Using the whole vegetable
(article, Deborah Madison)
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There is much talk about food waste these days, and for good reason. Every day, we discard vast amounts of food, whether at home, in a restaurant or cafeteria, or at the grocery store.
I know that even in our household of two, sometimes a pot of soup lasts just a little too long; either it turns sour, or its appeal dwindles.
Still, I’ve always been an advocate of leftovers: the soup I can rewarm for lunch; the lasagna my husband takes to his studio to dine on over a period of days; the rice, polenta, and vegetables. They’re all easy to reheat, and sometimes they even taste better with age.
[%image reference-image float=right width=400 caption="Use a mandoline to slice turnips and radishes as thinly as possible."] Incidentally, my thinking about leftovers was challenged when I took a class in Ayurvedic cooking, where I learned that not everyone regards leftovers so favorably. Leftover food, according to my teacher, is dead food. It has no spunk, no energy, no life. Instead, if you make just enough food to be consumed in a meal, the food you eat has more energy because it’s freshly prepared each time, and there is virtually no waste that way.
It’s a different approach, but somehow it resonated with me. Once you entertain the idea of not eating leftovers, you can’t believe how often you hear people refer to them. Suddenly it sounds as if leftovers are pretty much all people eat.
But back to waste. In addition to the food we buy and sometimes cook and then discard, I’m also thinking about the vegetables in the garden and the parts we ignore: Broccoli leaves. Collard flowers and stems. Carrot tops. Beet greens. Cauliflower cores. Broccoli stems. Radish leaves — especially radish leaves, because they’re the most nutritious part of the vegetable.
When you hold a fresh bunch of radishes in your hand, you can see for yourself how plentiful and robust the leaves are. Don’t they appear verdant and good enough to eat? That is indeed the case, as long as you don’t let them linger until they’re yellow and wilted.
The shape of the radish leaf is close to that of common arugula, and like arugula, the flavor is a bit peppery in a very mature leaf, milder in younger leaves. The leaves, rather than the roots, are packed with vitamins — calcium, iron, magnesium, folate, vitamin A, C, K, etc. — so you definitely want to use them rather than throw them out. That would truly be a waste. (However, it’s better to use organically grown radishes rather than leaves that have been sprayed.)
h4. How to use radish leaves?
I treasure my radish greens and have found all kinds of ways to use them, and I hope you will, too. Once you’ve sorted through them, discarded those that are bruised or yellowed, and washed them well, you can use them as follows:
Include them in a salad with other greens
Whip them up in a green smoothie
Sliver, then mix them with butter and julienned radishes for a spread
Make a radish soup
Braise them with the radish roots, asparagus, and other spring vegetables
Here’s a salad that features all kinds of radishes, but even if you have just a bunch of red radishes from the store, it will be delicious. Either way, the salad shouts “Spring!” long before many of the real spring vegetables have arrived.
Finely Shaved Radish, Turnip, and Carrot Salad with Hard Cheese and Spicy Greens
A festive party frock that flaunts all the colors of the season, this salad shows off the pink and green centers of China Rose and Green Meat radishes, scarlet-skinned salad turnips, pure white daikon rounds, purple-skinned carrots with their orange and yellow centers, radish sprouts, and more. If I have them, I include a few peeled fava beans, the big fleshly leaves of golden purslane, arugula flowers, and chervil sprigs. Leave out the cheese if you like, but do consider every possible vegetable.
The thinner you can slice these roots, the more pleasing they are to eat — and the more translucent their colors, too. Despite the ingredient list, this is basically an extemporaneous kind of dish, based on what you happen to have.
1 small daikon
1 China Rose, Watermelon, or other large pink-centered radish
1 Green Meat radish
1 or 2 small scarlet- or white-skinned salad turnips
2 or 3 smallish purple-skinned carrots
2 tablespoons thinly sliced chives
Fresh lemon juice
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Thin shaved slices of dry Monterey Jack, Parmesan, Gruyère, or Manchego cheese
Radish sprouts, tender radish leaves, arugula, and/or microgreens
Pinch of Maldon sea salt*
Trim the greens from the radishes and set aside a handful of the smallest, most tender leaves.
Trim the radish and turnip roots, leaving just a bit of the stem, and rinse. Thinly slice the radishes, turnips, and carrots, either lengthwise or crosswise, on a mandoline. Put the slices in a bowl, add the chives and reserved radish greens, and toss with enough oil to coat lightly. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Toss once more, taste, and adjust the seasonings, if needed.
Heap the salad on a platter. Finish with the cheese, radish sprouts, and Maldon sea salt.