To the Market

It used to be that going to the market was a sort of chore, an obligation, the only means of getting vegetables, some cheeses, some meats, and bread. Every couple of days someone in my house made the 10 minute walking trek to the market and got some things they had on the list and some that were a surprise of a new season–seasonal produce. That was nearly 20 years ago downtown Bucharest, pre-supermarkets, pre-year-round everything-produce, even pre-plastic bags for groceries.

The newest craze of cloth grocery bags that you reuse was the norm and a necessity back in the day in Romania. Farmers markets are now novelties both here and there; being able to walk to one is a special treat. And going to the market is no longer a chore – it is my favorite weekly activity!

There are hardly seasonal surprises in our eating patterns these days- watermelons in January seem to do just fine, shipped from half way around the world. I buy into it more often than I should, but the price is hardly worth it. The magic of our taste buds’ memory has vanished- having everything, all the time, means not as flavourful, not as sweet, hardly ever new, and certainly not that exciting.

It has been a long while but I do still remember the moment when I had the first strawberry of the season each year straight from the farmers market. Tasting a fruit anew each year, discovering it again, remembering its texture and scent was what my childhood was about. The sweet flavoursome tang of the strawberry that I got to experience as a child was replicated each time a new fruit and vegetable came in season.

What is in season right now at least where I live is still delicate spring produce- still some asparagus, a lot of greens, ramps and green garlic, perhaps some turnips and radishes, not much of anything else. Not a large selection yet but one that can be twisted around in several ways you may not have experimented with before.

Take radishes- or take these radishes- a beautiful bunch of French radishes, a spring or early summer radish variety, from Cure Farm (my favorite produce at the Boulder Farmers Market!).

I bought them three weeks in a row and cannot wait to get me another bunch today! They are stunning but we never really know what to do with them. Aside from adding them as a complement to various salad combinations or doing the old-school butter/bread/radish tea-like sandwich, the options are limited. Here’s the thing- you can make a stand-alone appetizer or a side dish from a bunch of radishes. Seriously- you can. Roast them- watch.

Cure Farm Roasted Radishes Two Ways

Ingredients: 1 large bunch of radishes, 3 tablespoons butter, salt & pepper, freshly chopped flat leaf parsley.

Plus: 2 oz goat cheese, 6 slices of baguette if you choose the canapé version.

Heat up the oven to 350 degrees. Wash the radishes and trim the leaves and top root end. Split them in half lenghtwise or in quarters if they are round and plump. Put them in a baking dish and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Melt the butter in a pan. Pour it over the radishes and mix them around to coat them evenly.

Put them in the oven for 30-40 minutes until they are soft and the very edges of them begin to turn golden-brown. Remove from the oven. The texture and flavor change significantly when you roast them. They become sweeter, losing the sharp bite and the crunch, and mimicking in a more tender way the taste and flavor of turnips.

Now, here are your options. Serve them as they come out sprinkled with a bit of fresh parsley along side your main course.

Or create a little canape by chopping the roasted radishes into smaller bit that will top toasted the slices of baguette, slathered with goat cheese. Top, of course, with some parsley.

And just for the record, I didn’t have the brilliant idea of roasting radishes. I read this article and could not wait to try roasting them myself.

Head on over to the farmers market and see if you find any. And if you don’t, just get what is in season, something exciting that will refresh your seasonal taste memory. I am (still) hoping for sweet peas and fava beans. Have a happy and fun Memorial Day weekend!

Photography by Jennifer Olson.

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  • Chef Dennis

    wow…I have been roasting all kinds of veggies but I would have never thought of roasting radish…I will definitely try it! When I was young we had a small farm and grew radishes, I always loved the white icicle radishes.

  • A Plum By Any Other Name

    I am growing french breakfast radishes and I am terrified to uproot them for fear that they will look nowhere near as lovely as those in your picture. At least I can rest happy knowing I can bake them in some butter regardless of their appearance. :) Thanks for the great tip!

    P.s. just stumbled across your blog reading the times: great stuff!

  • Andra

    Butter makes everything taste good but really roasting radishes completely changed what I thought of them…it's almost like they had a secret life/identity that I was unaware of!

    Definitely worth trying Chef Dennis…

    and Plum-that's great you're growing French radishes- I am sure they will turn out beautiful.