Friday, May 16, 2008

Recipe: Radish Risotto

I bought a lovely bunch of these ruby-red bulbs at the Greenmarket last weekend with no real plan in mind. A few of them got sliced up for salads, but I'd have had to eat a whole lot of salad to use the entire bunch that way. So I started researching ways to use a lot of radishes in one go, and I discovered that you can cook them. Really! Cooked radishes! The idea had never occurred to me before - radishes are one of the few foods I'd only eaten raw. Thing is, as vegetables go, radishes are horribly under-utilized. Other than an occasional appearance in salads, they're usually relegated to garnish status. And it's a shame, because according to Wikipedia, a full cup of sliced radish bulbs is only 20 calories. Twenty calories! That's the same number of calories in an equivalent serving of cucumbers. In other words, basically nothing. You can also cook the green tops, which have a little bit of a kick to them that's reminiscent of mustard greens. A bunch of radishes really gets you two vegetables for the price of one.

If you're considering cooking radishes, you should know that a cooked radish is an entirely different beast than a raw one. The bulbs lose their bite, growing milder and sweeter, with a taste similar to parsnips. The color also bleeds and fades. Someone who finds raw radishes too strong might like cooked radishes, but if you like that bitter, peppery, crisp taste, you might be disappointed by the cooked version. I had no idea what to expect when I cooked radishes for the first time, but I figured that just about anything can be turned into a tasty risotto, so I used the bulbs and the greens together for this dish. It turned out really well, and I'm seeing other attempts at cooked radishes in my future.

I'm sending this to Gay of A Scientist in the Kitchen, this week's host of Weekend Herb Blogging. I hope I'm doing this right, since it's my first time trying to submit an entry anywhere, and only my second entry ever!

Radish Risotto
serves 2-3 as a main course

4 cups chicken stock
1 tbs + 2 tsp butter
1 tbs olive oil
2 small shallots (or 1 large one)
1 cup risotto rice (Arborio, Vialone Nano, or Carnaroli)
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 bunch radishes with tops (my bunch weighed ~10 oz)
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 tbs fresh mint
1 tsp grated lemon zest
salt and pepper

2 saucepans (a small one for the stock and a larger, shallower one for the rice)
wooden spoon
knife and cutting board

Heat stock in small saucepan. When it starts to boil, lower the heat to the lowest simmer so it will stay hot throughout the cooking process.

To prepare the radishes, first break off the bulbs. Rinse them well and scrub any parts that look dirty. (Well, you should probably scrub all the bulbs, but it can get fiddly, so... your call.) Cut small radishes in half, medium-sized radishes in quarters, and jumbo radishes in eighths so all pieces are similarly sized. Rinse the radish greens in a few changes of cold water, then cut off any long or thick stems. The greens can be really dirty and gritty so make sure they are clean before you trim them.

Put the radishes aside, then peel and chop the shallots. Heat 1 tbs butter and 1 tbs olive oil over medium-high heat in the larger sauce pan. When butter melts, add shallots and cook for 2 minutes until they turn translucent. Add rice and stir so rice gets coated in oil.

Add wine to the pan and stir until the alcohol burns off and the rice absorbs the remaining liquid. When the liquid is almost all gone, add a ladle-full of hot stock to the rice and stir. Watch the risotto closely; as soon as the stock is absorbed, add another ladle-full and stir again. Continue adding stock a little at a time and stirring until the rice is cooked through and creamy, with just a little firmness in the center when you bite into a grain. It should take about 20 minutes.

Contrary to popular belief, you don't need to stir risotto constantly. You need to keep an eye on it so it never dries out and starts to burn, but I think that one or two good stirs after every bit of added stock is just fine. Plus that gives you some free time to prepare the rest of your ingredients.

After the rice has been cooking for 10 minutes, melt the remaining 2 tsp butter in a skillet over medium heat. As soon as it melts, add the chopped radish bulbs and a pinch of salt. Saute the radishes for about 5 minutes. The bright red color of the skin will start to leech into the white center, turning the whole thing a translucent, pale shade of pink. When this happens, add the radish greens and a little bit of hot stock, then cover and cook for another 2 minutes. At this point the greens should have wilted. Remove pan from heat.

When the rice is finished, remove it from heat. Add the cheese, radish bulbs with radish greens, mint, lemon zest, and salt and pepper to taste. If the addition of the cheese thickens up the risotto too much, add a little more stock to thin it out.

Scoop risotto into bowls and serve immediately.


Lulu Barbarian said...

Very nice first entry to Weekend Herb Blogging. I just did my first entry last week. It's a great event isn't it?

I'm always on the lookout for recipes for cooking radishes, just because the idea intrigues me but I don't know what to do with them. So I'll be looking for your further radish adventures! :-)

Kalyn said...

Sounds tasty and interesting. I did a couple of recipes with cooked radishes last summer and really enjoyed them. (Welcome to WHB too!)

Julia said...

mm i love radishes, their bright color and spicy kick. i've never tried cooking them, but i should.

Katy said...

yum! i never would have thought of this, but i better the creaminess of the risotto offsets the radish bitterness -- sounds delicious!

katiez said...

I also have never cooked radishes... Mon mari eats them so fast I've never had a chance.
But risotto, now that is interesting... I'm willing to put anything into risotto - just so I can make it more often.
Great recipe - and great intro to WHB!

Joanna said...

Thanks, everyone! The cooked radishes were an interesting departure for me, and while I haven't been chomping at the bit to try them again, I'm glad to have familiarized myself with the idea. If you do try this dish (or something else with cooked radishes), let me know!

Anonymous said...

Cool idea, in Japanese food, cooked daikon (radish) is pretty common, but I've never tried to cook the small red ones.

Joanna said...

Oh, interesting! I think I've had daikon raw (and definitely pickled) but I'm not sure I've ever tried it cooked. I'll keep an eye out for it.