Food Friday: Radish Salad


I felt it for a fleeting moment this morning. There was a cool breeze wafting up the driveway. The chippering cardinals were quick to point this out to me. Perhaps it was a sign of sweaters to come. I realize I am deluding myself, as there will be 90 degree weather next week, but I enjoyed the brief respite, and the coolth, and the thought that the seasons are going to change.

In the meantime there is still tonight’s dinner to consider. I really must listen to myself one of these days and at least write out a list of what to prepare for the weekly meals, ahead of time. Instead I play Kitchen Roulette, and peer hopefully into the freezer compartment every morning. Luckily there are some frozen chicken cutlets, so we will have chicken schnitzel tonight. Otherwise, my default plan was going to serve leftover spaghetti, which is what we had for dinner last night, so I feel there would have been some rebellion among the troops. Fools. Leftover spaghetti is the perfect meal. I could eat it every night.

I will also devote some precious time tonight to the preparation of a tasty and colorful salad. I found a marvelous recipe for a radish salad in the New York Times last week which sounded seasonal and intriguing. I normally associate radishes with 1950s style relish dishes, where they are served all tarted up as little rosettes, nestled among sweet gherkin pickles, celery stalks and carrot sticks.

Or I remember the radishes of my youth, handed out to the children in small Pyrex bowls of ice water, out on the back porch where we had been culled from the adults, so our buoyancy and noise would fail to annoy. Ha. Like that worked. And last year I fell upon a recipe for radishes served with good, high fat content European butter with a sprinkling of Maldon salt. Deelish.

(This link won’t work unless you already subscribe to the NYT – but I have copied the recipe out for you below.)

Herb and Radish Salad With Feta and Walnuts

1 cup walnuts
2 bunches small radishes, trimmed (about 15 radishes)
3 Persian cucumbers, ends trimmed (I like the seedless English sort)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper
3 ounces sheep’s milk feta cheese, crumbled (preferably French feta)
½ cup chives cut into 1-inch pieces (about 1 bunch)
1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves and tender stems (about 1 bunch)
1 cup loosely packed dill fronds, stems removed (about 1 large bunch)
½ cup loosely packed mint leaves (about 1 small bunch)
2 sprigs tarragon, leaves stripped

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spread walnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast for 10 to 12 minutes until lightly golden. Let cool, then chop roughly. Place in a sieve and shake away loose skin and crumbs. Set chopped nuts aside.

Use a sharp knife or mandoline to slice the radishes and cucumbers into thin coins roughly 1/8-inch thick. Place in a medium bowl. Add walnuts.

In a small glass or jar, whisk together lemon juice and olive oil to make the dressing. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Just before serving, season radishes, cucumbers and walnuts with a pinch of salt and dress lightly with 3 to 4 tablespoons of vinaigrette. Toss well to combine. Add crumbled cheese and toss gently to combine without breaking the cheese down too much. Arrange in a loose mound in a shallow serving bowl (or on a platter).

Place herbs in the mixing bowl, season with a pinch of salt, and dress very lightly with about 1 tablespoon vinaigrette. Toss to combine, then pile the herb salad atop the radishes and cucumbers. Serve immediately.

I plan on being fast and loose with my version of this recipe. My grocery store does not carry French feta, because I do not live in Manhattan or France. And I find that a little dill goes a long, long way. But it is the sort of recipe you can personalize. Maybe you will use pine nuts instead of walnuts. Maybe you have access to French feta, in which case I will bring my mandoline and will slice the radishes in your kitchen. I hope that you have some French wine you would like to share with me, too.

Have you tried sliced radishes on buttered bread? They will jazz up your next tea party the way cucumber sandwiches never have. Although, if you were really French, you would have been eating radishes on buttered slices of brown bread for breakfast for years. Mais oui!

In any case, it is imperative to slice and dice and move this to the table quickly, though without leaving your fingerprints behind in the mandoline. Be careful! (Mr. Friday bought some new knives recently, and I sliced a good chunk off my left index finger while preparing croutons last week. Ouch!) Both cukes and radishes get rubbery and unappealing within seconds of introducing salt or salad dressing. Have your chicken schnitzel cooked and keeping toasty in the oven while you prepare this delightful and tangy salad. The radish salad will remind you of summers past, and the cool of the autumn that is just around the corner. I hope.


“Our vegetable garden is coming along well, with radishes and beans up, and we are less worried about revolution that we used to be.”
E. B. White

About Jean Sanders

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