One of my favorite aspects of cooking—and there are many—is coaxing unexpected flavors out of fruits and vegetables. Often, that transformation is a mere function of cooking method. For example, butternut squash, which is fairly sweet on its own, is made even more so by roasting. So, if you don’t want those natural sugars to overwhelm your palate or the other ingredients in a dish, perhaps sautéing is a better choice.
Or take broccoli and Brussels sprouts, which are two of those vegetables that some people love to hate, finding their “bitterness” unappealing. In these cases, roasting the veggies, especially at a higher temperature and for a longer time than you might think, transforms them into something delectably crunchy, sweetly caramelized, and more addicting than French fries. Roasting can also tame the fire of jalapeno and other peppers, making them far more palatable to the heat-sensitive among us while also allowing their flavor notes to rise above their singe-factor.
I love my cast iron grill pan, and the mouth-watering char created by even indoor grilling is very effectively used to render fruits like pineapples and pears more savory. Or, conversely, as in the recipe that follows, grilling can temper undesirable characteristics like, for some, the peppery bitterness of a radish.
Growing up, I thought radishes were something served—and largely avoided—on the crudités platter at Thanksgiving. But then, as an adult, a friend told me that her family enjoys them boiled and eaten like potatoes. My mental response? Not so much. But, she did get my creative juices flowing in regard to the overlooked radish because they do offer many healthful benefits and the skin of the red ones is a simply beautiful jewel-like color.
In this salad, grilling balances the radish’s yin and yang of pungency and natural sugars, as does the dressing composed of both sweet maple syrup and curry powder.
Grilled Radishes and Spring Greens with Maple-Curry Vinaigrette
Yield: 4 servings
8 large red radishes, ends trimmed, and halved lengthwise
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
Pinch sea salt
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup
3/4 teaspoon curry powder
Pinch garlic powder
Pinch sea salt
2 cups spring salad greens
1 tablespoon chopped roasted peanuts
1. Salad: Heat an oiled grill pan over medium-high heat. While the pan heats, prepare the radishes.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, curry powder, and salt. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Add the radishes and toss to coat.
3. Arrange the radishes on the hot grill pan, cut-side down, placing them close together. Grill for 2 1/2 minutes, then turn 90 degrees and grill for 2 1/2 minutes more or until slightly caramelized with nice grill marks. Baste with the remaining curry-oil mixture.
4. Turn the radishes over and cook for another 2 1/2 minutes or until they develop grill marks, basting again. The radishes should be tender, but not soft. Transfer to a plate and allow to cool slightly.
6. To serve: Arrange the greens on 4 plates. Top each with 4 radish halves, drizzle each with one quarter of the dressing, and sprinkle evenly with the peanuts.
A Bite of Salad: For a fun alternative presentation, arrange 4 Asian soup spoons with flat bottoms on each of 4 salad plates. Divide the spinach leaves among them, nestle a radish in each one, and drizzle the dressing over.
From The Blooming Platter Cookbook by Betsy DiJulio. Copyright © 2011. Vegan Heritage Press. Used by permission.