HORS-D’OEUVRES DE LEGUMES: LES RADIS

  I usually grow the long, white daikon radishes for pickling in my fall/winter garden.  They take about as much space as some of the smaller radishes, but they can get enormous.  The winter rains and cold snaps make them sweet and delicious.  This fall, my first planting was fiery hot and spicy because of the very warm weather, and I was disappointed that my pickles this year turned out bitter.
I also grew some new herbs in my winter garden.  Last year I grew a lot of cilantro, parsley, and dill, but this year I added cutting celery (an easy-to-grow substitute for celery – a very intensive and environmentally destructive crop.  However it only replaces the flavor and not the bulk of celery), anise, fennel, and chervil.  When I started them in flats, Rosie and Clothilde were both “helping” me, and I didn’t have time/hands to label them.  I tried to have some way I could remember which was which, but it didn’t stick, and I forgot.  I think I planted the new, unfamiliar ones at the edges….or maybe it was the middle.  One of the herbs did very well.  I have maybe 15 plants, and they are all thriving.
I tasted it, and it had a mild anise flavor, so I naturally assumed it was anise.  It looked a lot like poison hemlock, and Ethan didn’t want to try it at first, until I assured him I had certainly grown it from seed!  I was going to let it go to seed, as I had planted it along with cabbage for a saurkraut seasoning.
When I ordered seeds for the summer garden and was perusing the herb section of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, I noticed that their picture of anise didn’t look anything like what I had planted!  It turned out to be chervil, which is supposed to be excellent in herb butter.
This week, while looking for a French recipe to try out, I discovered that the first vegetable appetizer in La Cuisine was for radishes. In France, radishes are usually served fresh, with butter, and that is exactly the recipe from R. Blondeau.  I also added some chervil and garlic chives to the butter.  The taste of the chervil changes in butter, becoming very complex and herby.  It makes the butter taste almost like herbed cheese.
Although R. Blondeau says hors-d’oeuvres, or appetizers, are served usually at lunch, and soup is the start of supper, I have been slicing a freshly-pulled radish and setting it out on the table while I get the rest of dinner ready.  Everyone, except maybe Mirin, who can be very picky, has been enjoying the crispy white radish slices with chervil butter.

Hors-s’oeuvres, as R. Blondeau writes, “without being very being very substantial, nevertheless have much to offer, to stimulate the appetite, and happily begin the meal, so that everyone will wait patiently for the main dishes.”

 Les Radis

 Wash them with care, cut the little end of the root, and also half the leaves.  Wash in a bath of water, and then, drain and arrange on a tray.  On a second tray, along with the first, have some fresh butter.
purple-radishes

 

Radish Appetizer

 
Fresh radishes, 2-3 small ones per person, or l long radish for several people
Fresh butter, softened
1.  Wash the radishes well, trim the leaves and the ends.  (Chickens love the radish tops). If the radishes are large, cut into slices.  Small radishes can be served whole.
2.  Serve with fresh butter.  The slices can be dipped in butter and eaten, or whole radishes can be served with a butter knife.  Put a knob of fresh butter on the end of the radish and take a bite.  Repeat.
Notes:  I’ve tried salted and unsalted butter, and I personally prefer salted butter.  Or unsalted with a side-dish of salt.  The recipe says “fresh butter” not cultured, but cultured butter is tasty with it, too.  To make the herb butter, de-stem parsley, dill, cilantro, chives or chervil.  Put the herbs in a cup and snip them up finely with kitchen scissors before adding them to the butter.  Cream them in with a fork.

{These French recipes are from a cookbook titled La Cuisine:  Guide Practique de la Ménagère by Chef R. Blondeau.  This book was passed down to me from my great-grandmother, who was from Alsace, a North-eastern region on the Rhine river plain in France.  It was published in 1930 as a guide for household cooks.

I am translating the recipes from French, testing them out with home-grown or raised food, and re-writing them in a modern format}

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