Peppery radishes are a wonderful springtime treat. They are not just for eating raw, radishes can be cooked and their greens are also edible. I always like to pick up a big bunch of radishes at the farmers' market, where you'll typically find them sold with big bushy leaves. In supermarkets, the greens are typically wilted or more often the radishes are sold in bags without their leaves. Just last week I made a trip to Union Square's Greenmarket and picked up a bagful of spring groceries, among them radishes.
Not only did I pick up groceries, but I also picked up some great cooking tips from the farmer who sold the radishes to me. She recommended sauteing, stir-frying, and even adding the greens to miso soup. I had the idea of making a raw pesto, but since the greens were quite peppery to begin with, I decided on sauteing them for a simple pasta dish. I combine crisp pancetta with the radishes, the greens, and a bit of garlic. It's a simple pasta dish for a quick dinner any night of the week. Who knew you can cook radishes and their greens? But for me it's all about the philosophy of using what you have, waste not want not.
Radishes are a part of the cabbage family. They are available in spring and winter varieties and come in different colors, such as red, white, purple, and even my favorite watermelon colored, which are pale green on the outside and bright pink on the inside. When buying radishes, look for roots that are small and round. Larger roots tend to be tough. Once you get them home, place the radishes in water to keep the roots and the greens fresh.
Pasta with Radishes and Radish Greens
1-1/2 pounds baby radishes with greens
4 ounces pancetta or bacon, chopped
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
8 ounces campanelle pasta
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
Cut radish greens from radishes. Wash greens well in many changes of water and spin dry. Scrub radishes and trim roots. Cut into quarters or halves, depending on size.
Bring a large pot of liberally salted water to a boil. Add radishes and blanch for 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon. Add pasta and cook according to package directions until al dente.
Meanwhile, warm a large saute pan over medium heat. Add pancetta and fry until nearly crisp. Add garlic and saute 1 minute. Add blanched radishes and radish greens. Saute until greens have wilted. Add a 1/4 cup pasta water, cover and steam until radishes are tender, about 5 minutes. Add cooked pasta and combine. Continue to cook until any remaining liquid evaporates. Yield: 2 servings.