Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Feast of Roasted Radishes

A few years ago, when I was reorganizing my cookbooks, I moved my small collection of Time-Life Foods of the World cookbooks out of the kitchen and into the bookcase that surrounds my living room mantle. Though they were written by some of the most preeminent food writers of their day -- for instance, Waverly Root wrote the Italian volume, M.F.K. Fisher and Julia Child, the French -- I'd always valued them much more for their evocative photography and storytelling than for the actual recipes. In fact, it was one of the pictures that I saw in The Cooking of Provincial France in the early seventies that changed the way I thought of radishes forever: a tow-haired boy of about four or five eating an open-faced sandwich of long rose-and-white breakfast radishes on a slice of well-buttered French bread. For someone who'd only eaten bright red radishes raw in salads or dipped in salt, it was a glimpse of an unknown, yet exciting world.

I had same thrill recently when I found not one, but two articles extolling the virtues of cooked radishes: one by Melissa Clark in The New York Times; the other by Donna Long in a Saveur article entitled Foods that Inspire. Needless to say, I was incredibly inspired by both. It was early May and the Farmers' Market in Portsmouth had just opened. I found a beautiful mixed bunch of radishes at the Wake Robin Farm stand.
I decided to take Melissa Clark's idea of combining radishes and feta and use Long's recipe for roasting

Then I gave it a twist of my own: serving it on crackers as an hors'd oeuvre, as sort of homage to that tow-headed French boy who had captivated me with his radish sandwich so many years ago.

Roasted Radishes
with Feta Cheese on Crackers
Based on a recipe from Saveur Magazine

1 bunches assorted radishes
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 sprigs fresh thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Half cup of feta cheese, crumbled
8 large flat water crackers

1. Heat oven to 425˚. Trim radish greens; reserve for another use. Wash radishes, pat dry, and transfer to a large bowl with oil and thyme. Toss to combine; season with salt and pepper.

2. Cut radishes in half and put them into a shallow baking dish and cook, turning occasionally, until golden brown and a small knife slides easily into radishes, about 20 minutes.
3. Sprinkled crumbled feta on the radishes and put back into the oven for a few minutes, until the cheese has melted.
4. Place on crackers and serve.


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