Zippy Radish Salad with Green Onions and Lemon Zest

Zesty, peppery, biting – the flavor of a freshly picked radish is anything but tame.  For this reason, many people tend to shy away from this surprisingly versatile veggie that also happens to be a nutritional powerhouse.

I must admit, radishes hold a very special place in my heart.  On the night we were engaged, my husband Brandon and I ate at a farm to table restaurant in Door County, where we had a perfect appetizer of jewel-toned radishes served with smoked sea salt. In celebration of this simple, yet unforgettable dish, we served radishes as a starter at our wedding as well.  So yeah, I like radishes.

This weekend, my best pal and fellow dietetics student Chetney and I teamed up to do a cooking demonstration at our local farmers market.  We shared and handed out samples of two recipes that showcased some of the season’s best produce, donated by one of the market vendors, Kettle Rock Farm. Our “Zippy Radish Salad” was a big hit, as was the Kickin’ Kale Hummus that’ll be popping up on Chetney’s blog soon.  Under our paper lantern-adorned tent, we prepared this salad from scratch amidst eager market patrons and handed out samples, in response to which many people commented, “I don’t like radishes, but this is delicious!”

Here’s us all apron-ed out in between demos:

Chetney and I at the market

Not only are radishes de-lish, but they’re also a good source of vitamin C, fiber, and some pretty amazing phytonutrients called isothiocyanates, which are also found in broccoli, kale, and the other cruciferous veggies we’ve all come to love.  Isothiocyanates (try saying that three times fast) are known to help rid the body of carcinogens and to inhibit the growth of cancer cells by essentially causing them to self destruct. Read more about these fascinating compounds here.

But now onto the recipe: the reason this super-simple salad was beloved even by the radish-averse is because it tames the vegetable’s bite while allowing just enough of its “zip” to shine through.  It’s like that one perfect dress that plays up all your nice parts while hiding your less-favorite spots. The bulk of the salad is raw chopped radishes and green onions. The “dressing” is plain, whole milk yogurt, salt, pepper, and lemon zest.  The creamy, tangy yogurt plays so well against the sharp flavors of onion and radish while lemon zest brightens everything to just the right flavor-hue to please nearly every palate.  Enjoy with all your favorite picnic foods this summer, replete with pride in your ability to say “isothiocyanates” with a mouthful of zippy radish salad!

radish salad

Zippy Radish Salad
serves 4 as a side dish

Ingredients:

2 ½ cups radishes, chopped into matchsticks
3-4 green onions, sliced into thin rounds, green and white parts
1/4 cup whole milk plain yogurt
1 tsp lemon zest
pepper to taste
1/4 tsp salt, added just before serving

Method:

Combine chopped radishes and green onions in a medium serving bowl.

In a separate bowl, stir together yogurt, lemon zest and pepper in a separate bowl, then pour over vegetables and stir to combine. Just before serving, stir in salt.

Note: if you stir in the salt right away and allow the salad to sit before serving, the radishes will lost their crunch and the salad will become watery.

***Try adding chopped fresh dill, basil, mint or other seasonal herbs for a new flavorful twist!***

zippy radish salad

Nutrition Information – Thank you Chetney for calculating these out!
serving size = ¼ salad

Calories: 18
Fat: 1g
Carbohydrate: 2g
Sugar: 1g
Protein: 1g
Fiber: 1g
Sodium: 157mg
Vitamin A: 8% DV
Vitamin C: 8% DV
Calcium: 4% DV
Iron: 8% DV

Maple Vanilla Rhubarb Compote

‘Tis the season to find a random patch of rhubarb growing in your next door neighbor’s backyard. Don’t be shy; ask him if he plans to use it. If the answer is no, chop it down and make something that tastes precisely like the beginning of summer.
fresh picked rhubarb
I tend towards simpler preparations of rhubarb: the ones that let its tangy, uniquely rhubarbian flavor shine through. The stewed compote I made is scented with vanilla, orange zest, and a touch of cinnamon with just enough maple syrup to take off the pucker-inducing edge. You may like more sweetener, in which case, add it!

I like this compote best swirled into full fat, plain yogurt. The tanginess of both ingredients play well together, and the creaminess of the yogurt tempers the hint of bitterness in the ‘barb while playing up the sweeter notes of maple and spice. This morning I dolloped both on top of a steaming stack of coconut flour pancakes and declared a breakfast miracle worthy of sharing.
maple vanilla rhubarb compote
I didn’t want to be too greedy with the free rhubarb, so I only took about 6 stalks. This recipe could easily be doubled or tripled to accommodate a larger rhubarb haul.

Maple Vanilla Rhubarb Compote

makes about 2 small jelly jars full

Ingredients:

2 cups rhubarb stalks, rinsed and chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
3 tablespoons maple syrup
zest and juice from 1 medium orange
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
dash of cinnamon
dash of salt
summer fresh rhubarb
Method:

Combine all ingredients in a heavy bottomed skilled or saucepan. Heat mixture over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until rhubarb begins to break down and become soft, about ten minutes. Taste compote and add more sweetener if desired.

Allow to cool slightly and pour into jars. Keep refrigerated for up to three weeks. Enjoy over pancakes, waffles, oatmeal, yogurt, ice cream or straight from the jar.
rhubarb compote on coconut pancakes
Lip-smacking summer goodness.

Quinoa Black Bean Burgers

Perhaps a strange confession for this digital space of mine, I must admit I’m a real fan of tangible reading materials.  I love to smell the pages of a musty old novel or graze my fingers over the cover of a shiny new copy of Real Simple.  So I subscribe to a couple of in-print magazines.  I love devouring the recipe photos in a brand-new issue of my favorite mags – flashing through a month full of new ideas for things to cook and eat.  I try so hard to savor each article, not looking ahead to the most interesting ones but rather reading it like a book to make it last longer.

Recipe reading is I’m sure a guilty pleasure I share with many in this community of food bloggers and readers.   (When I can’t sleep, I often sit on the loveseat and read the beastly (in size) Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by lamplight until my eyelids get a bit heavier.)  But many times a recipe can be just that, reading material.  Then there are those times, there is that recipe, which jolts you into must-make-this-immediately mode.

Well, for whatever reason these quinoa burgers, featured in Whole Living‘s grilling feature this month, hit that button in me.  I made them as soon as I got home from work (I sometimes get to read my magazines at my job!)  I switched out some ingredients because I didn’t have everything called for on hand, but I feel like these turned out so delish that I’d definitely make these alterna-patties “my way” again.

The original recipe uses kidney beans; I used black.  I also subbed Vidalia onions for shallot, crumbled goat cheese instead of feta, whole eggs instead of whites, and added cornmeal to dry up the mixture a little and make patty-formation a much easier feat.

I melted Wisconsin cheddar onto a whole-wheat tortilla in the frying pan and then folded the hot tortilla around the burgers.  If I’d had avocado, it would have been a big-money addition to this sandwich.

I must say though, these turned out great.  They were everything I want a frozen black bean burger to be but never is: fresh-tasting, bearing a perfectly crisp exterior and soft, warm interior.  Perhaps it was the lack of hydrolyzed soy protein or maybe just the way I formed them by hand and cooked them so lovingly in their wading pool of olive oil.  I like that you can really taste the beans, because I sure like beans – quinoa boldly offers up its winning texture while grated carrots and goat cheese lend crunch and creaminess respectively.

Try these – even if like me, you don’t have a grill.  Eat them outside if you can because everything tastes better that way.  The burgers are not too hard to make, and with a side of roasted veggies and perhaps a watermelon wedge, they make a darn good meat-free Monday supper.  I recommend making extras so you can heat one up whenever you need a quick lunch this week!

Quinoa Black Bean Burgers – makes 6 sandwiches

adapted from Whole Living magazine – June 2012

Ingredients:

1 can (15 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed well

½ medium Vidalia or other sweet onion, finely chopped

1 big or 2 medium carrots, scrubbed and finely grated

2 cups cooked quinoa (any color!)

½ cup crumbled goat cheese

1 teaspoon coarse salt

2 eggs, lightly whisked

¼ cup cornmeal or as needed for consistency

2 tablespoons olive oil

6 100% whole wheat tortillas

cheddar cheese and avocado for sandwich assembly

Method:

In a biggish bowl, mash black beans into a thick paste with a fork, then mix in onion, carrot, cooked quinoa (slightly cooled), goat cheese, salt, and eggs.  Incorporate cornmeal by the tablespoon until mixture resembles something you could make patties out of (not runny).

Form mixture into six or so patties and allow to chill out in fridge for 30 minutes on a wax paper lined plate.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat (or directly on grill grates if you are so lucky and inclined) and cook patties until golden brown (add remaining tablespoon oil if cooking in batches), 4 to 5 minutes per side.

Remove burgers to paper towel lined plate.  Turn heat to medium/low, warm tortillas in same pan, sprinkling with cheddar, until cheese is just melted.

Serve burgers snuggled inside the tortillas with slices of avocado to your liking.

Note: you can cook all the burgers right away and just heat up leftovers, or leave remaining patties uncooked until ready to eat to ensure crisp burgers each time.

Less is More

As promised, but probably too late use this season, I will now share my morel mushroom recipe.

When it comes to a morel mushroom score, just remember less is more.

Browsing the web for morel recipes, I found that even many of the “simple” ones have you coating the beauties in flour, cornflakes or get this… saltine crackers!  Really, people? Really?  You’ve just foraged one of the most delectable, natural gifts mother Earth provides and you are going to cover it with one of the most processed, bleached food-like substances around?  No, no, no.

So, drawing from a faint memory of a recipe I saw a few years back in Whole Living magazine, I decided to pair the morels with garlic ramps, another fleeting springtime treat, and lightly sauté them in a shallow pool of butter and olive oil.  Thyme came to the party to enhance the meaty mushroom goodness, and salt – that’s about it.

The mushrooms were so savory, so umami, it was difficult to believe that no soy sauce snuck into the pan while my back was turned.  There was chewiness, but no sliminess – the mushrooms were tender and the texture of the morels, with their crater-y exteriors, was like no other.  The ramps, being less intense than their more bulbous cousins, infused the butter and enveloped the morels in a subtle spicy sweetness but did not overpower at all.  After they were gone, I was sad, depressed even, because they were so good, and I knew it would be another year (if we’re lucky) before my taste buds would again bear the pleasure of the elusive morel.

Simple Sautéed Morels  – serves as many as you are willing to share with

3 tablespoons each butter and olive oil

1 bunch, 6 or so, ramps –  white parts only – chopped

1 to 2 dozen fresh morel mushrooms – depending on size

Fresh thyme leaves

Coarse salt, like kosher

Method:

Upon scoring your morel mushrooms, thank mother nature and take mental note of where you are so you can return next year in hopes of a sweet repeat.  Many ‘shroomers believe in carrying their morels in a mesh bag so as they walk through the forest, the mushrooms’ spores will fall through and hopefully sprout again the next season.

In a colander, rinse your morels thoroughly of dirt.  Then, gently slice them in half lengthwise and look inside their hollows for any insects who have taken residence there.  At this point you can soak the morels in salt water for about 2 hours, which kills any miniscule critters and supposedly neutralizes an enzyme that causes digestive issues, though this seems to be more old wives’ tale than scientific fact.

You can keep your clean and sliced morels in a shallow bowl covered by a damp paper towel in the fridge for up to 5 days, but I recommend cooking as soon as you can.

Melt the butter and olive oil over medium heat in a large sauté pan until just bubbling.  Turn the heat to medium-low and add the chopped ramps, stirring lovingly for a couple minutes until they are light brown and smell heavenly.

Next, lay the morels, outer-side down (hollow side up) in the buttery pan.  Let them cook for about three minutes, then check to see how they look: if slightly golden brown and shiny, they’re ready to be flipped.  Take your time with this, turning each morel to its other side with tender care.  Give them maybe two more minutes before adding the thyme leaves and coarse salt to taste.  Waft the scent to your nose with an oven mitt and savor that scent.

To finish, stir everything together with an old wooden spoon and remove the mushrooms to a pretty platter or thick paper plate.  Savor each bite; share if you can bear it.

Disclaimer:

Morels contain small amounts of hydrazine toxins that are removed by thorough cooking; morel mushrooms should never be eaten raw. It has been reported that even cooked morels can sometimes cause mild intoxication symptoms when consumed with alcohol.

When eating this mushroom for the first time it is wise to consume a small amount to minimize any allergic reaction. Morels for consumption must be clean and free of decay.

Morels growing in old apple orchards that have been treated with insecticides may accumulate levels of toxic lead and arsenic (yum!) that are unhealthy for human consumption.

Source: Wikipedia