Eating a radish requires a leap of faith. With its sharp, biting reputation, it doesn't invite timid appetites. Yet a radish's plump shape and vivid color are so tempting, it's hard to resist.
Fortunately this root vegetable's charms outweigh its pungent nature. And radishes offer so much variety that if one type is too potent, you can find another that is more to your liking.
Cherry Belle is probably the radish you're most familiar with. The bright red globes, ranging in size from a nickel to a silver dollar, deliver snap and crunch in the white-fleshed interior. This is the standard supermarket radish, usually sold in bunches with leaves attached. You won't go wrong as long as you choose a bunch that's firm with bright green leaves that aren't withered.
Shop in an upscale grocery store or a year-round farmers' market to find more exotic radishes. The French breakfast radish is long and narrow: white at the root and rosy near the leaf end. The delicate flavor means you really can eat it for breakfast.
White icicle radishes are shaped like carrots, colored white like parsnips and taste like neither. Although the white icicle is probably the mildest radish, it has some pungency.
One of the most beautiful radishes I've seen -- and only in farmers' markets -- is the Misata Rose (pictured at right). About the size of a large pear, it has a cream to light green exterior. Cut the radish open and you'll be amazed by the magenta-colored flesh.
But any radish, whether rare or garden variety, makes a delightful addition to a salad for two.
To prepare radishes, rub off any dirt under cold running water and trim off the leaves. Don't slice the radishes until you're ready to serve or you'll lose some of the flavor and crisp texture.
Radishes are valued for whetting the appetite. When you serve a radish salad, be sure to follow with a robust entree, such as Filet Mignon with Mushrooms and Brandy.
Radish and Lettuce Salad
3 cups mixed salad greens
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped ripe olives
4 to 6 thin Misata Rose radish slices
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Divide salad greens between 2 salad plates. Top each serving with 1 tablespoon of olives and half the radishes. Combine olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in a cup. Stir well. Pour half the dressing over each serving.
Filet Mignon With Mushrooms and Brandy
4 bacon strips
1 shallot, minced
4 ounces coarsely chopped shiitake or oyster mushrooms or a mix
Two 6-ounce pieces filet mignon, cut 1 1/2 inches thick
1/4 cup brandy
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 generous pinch dried, crushed rosemary
Fry bacon strips until crisp in large heavy-bottomed skillet. Remove bacon, crumble and set aside. Pour off and reserve all but 1 tablespoon bacon drippings. Add shallot and mushrooms to skillet. Saute 5 minutes, stirring frequently, or until mushrooms are tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove and set aside.
Return remaining bacon drippings to skillet and heat. Add filet mignon and brown on high 3 minutes per side. Remove filet mignon from skillet and set aside.
Add brandy to skillet and cook over high heat, scraping up browned bits. When brandy cooks down to 1 tablespoon add chicken broth, mushrooms, crumbled bacon, rosemary and filet mignon. Cook over medium heat 2 to 5 minutes, turning meat over once, or until mushrooms are hot and meat is desired doneness.