A radish-arugula salad that doesn’t bite back
As anybody who has gotten vegetable-cooking advice from their nearest farmers market can attest, sometimes grower knows best. That’s certainly the case when the grower in question is also a cookbook author, writer and former food magazine editor.
Susie Middleton did the back-to-the-land thing several years ago, walking away from the suburban home and the big job at Fine Cooking. She headed to Martha’s Vineyard, where she planted a garden, then a bigger garden, then moved to an old farmhouse to plant a bigger one, then started a farm stand, then – well, you see where this is going. She and her new love, the carpenter who built her a farm stand, became farmers.
Her new book, Fresh From the Farm (Taunton Press), tells that story in its outer margins. Taking center stage are images of the vegetables she grew, and recipes for what she made with them. Read one and then another, and you’ll find yourself charmed by her conversational tone and equally breezy way of cooking.
Back to that grower-knows-best idea. I was looking for something different to do with radishes, and there it was: Middleton quickly pickles them – and by quickly, I’m talking a matter of minutes – to remove just enough of their bite that they become addictive.
Tucked into arugula that’s been similarly tamed by lemon juice and a little honey, and with Parmesan, almonds and mint thrown into the mix, the radishes are able to star without overtaking the dish.
Middleton likes to pair pink radishes with arugula for her favorite color combination, but the salad looks positively cheery – farm-fresh, indeed – no matter which color radish you choose.
RADISH AND ARUGULA SALAD WITH HONEY, ALMONDS AND MINT
6 or 7 large fresh radishes, tops and tails removed, very thinly sliced
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice plus 1/4 lemon, seeded, or more as needed
1/4 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, or more as needed
4 cups loosely packed baby arugula leaves (about 21/2 ounces total)
4 teaspoons small fresh mint leaves or large leaves torn into smaller pieces
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil, more as more needed
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted and coarsely crushed (see note)
2-ounce wedge Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (preferably a few inches long, for easier shaving)
1 tablespoon honey
4 small edible flowers, such as violets, chive blossoms or short mint sprigs, for garnish (optional)
Combine the sliced radishes in a small, nonreactive bowl with the 2 teaspoons of lemon juice, the sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Let sit for 5 minutes, tossing occasionally.
Combine the arugula and mint in a medium bowl. Squeeze the juice from the remaining 1/4 lemon over the greens, then drizzle on the oil. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and toss to incorporate. Taste, and season with more lemon juice, oil and/or salt as needed.
Divide the arugula-mint mixture among individual plates, mounding each portion. Sprinkle some of the crushed almonds on top.
Drain the liquid from the radishes and arrange them in the center and around each mound of greens.
Use a vegetable peeler to shave 5 or 6 thin curls of cheese over the each portion. Sprinkle with the remaining almonds, then drizzle them with the honey. Garnish with edible flowers or mint sprigs, if using.
Serve right away. Serves 4.
NOTE: Toast the almonds in a small, dry skillet over medium-low heat, shaking the pan to avoid scorching, until the nuts are fragrant and lightly browned. Cool completely before using.