June 13, 2018 10:22:55 AM
I don't remember when I had radishes with unsalted butter and coarse salt for the first time, but I know that it was in France. And, it was the oblong red-to-fushia, white-tipped French breakfast radish that I fell in love with. This often photographed radish is what I think of when I think of French open-air markets. I myself have taken more photos of the radishes in the market than I can count. So, I am thrilled that you can now find them in the United States. If you have a home garden, you can also grow them.
I don't have a vegetable garden, but I belong to a CSA (community supported agriculture) which essentially means I get a weekly share of the local farm's vegetables. So, imagine my delight when my first box contained baby French breakfast radishes.
I was so thrilled to see the radishes that I ignored everything else in my CSA box and promptly made a "tartine." A tartine is not a complicated dish. It is simply the French name for open-faced sandwich. Mine was composed solely of the radishes, unsalted butter and my favorite naturally coarse French salt, fleur de sel (flower of salt).
The first time I experienced the luscious combination of butter, radish and salt was on a slice of the famous brown sourdough bread from Poilane. The toothsome and rustic bread with a sour tang and chewy crust was the perfect canvas for the toppings. The crunchy, slightly hot and spicy radishes tamed by the sweet butter and rounded out by the crystals of pure salt from the fleur de sel was one of the great food moments of my life and left a lasting impression. It is one of those classic food pairings where the whole is much greater than the sum of the parts.
You can make a tartine with the more easily available globe radishes or gorgeous watermelon radish, or a combination of your favorite radishes. You can also serve the radishes with the same garnishes, but without the bread as a nibble with drinks. Truth be told, I do this much more frequently because the tartine also relies on a really nice rustic loaf of bread and I don't always have that on hand. But I always have good quality unsalted butter and fleur de sel, so this is a pretty, tasty, easy and relatively healthy pre-dinner snack.
To serve, I place room temperature butter in a pretty crock, a tablespoon of fleur de sel in a small salt cellar or small bowl and serve the radishes ice cold in a third bowl. If using breakfast radishes, clean and trim them, leaving a bit of the green tops on to act like a handle. Soak in ice water to crisp up before serving. To eat them, dip the radishes in the soft butter and fleur de sel just before consuming and watch the bowl of radishes disappear. If you haven't had this remarkable simple treat before, prepare to become addicted.
If using globe radishes, in addition to trimming the tops as you did for breakfast radishes, cut a slit into the four sides of the radish with a paring knife. Soak them in ice water for about 30 minutes to crisp up and bloom a bit before serving. You can also simply cut an "X'' in the bottom of the radish to hold the butter and salt. Smear with butter first and then dip into the salt. Pop into your mouth and enjoy.
OPEN-FACED RADISH TARTINE
Serving: 1 (can be multiplied to make as many as desired)
Start to finish: 40 minutes
1 thick slice of rustic bread
1 tablespoon unsalted high-quality European-style butter
3-4 radishes, cleaned and sliced thin, but not too thin.
Fleur de sel or other coarse sea salt
Nutrition information per serving of tartine : 215 calories; 115 calories from fat; 13 g fat (7 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 31 mg cholesterol; 1169 mg sodium; 23 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 3 g sugar; 3 g protein.
RADISHES WITH SWEET BUTTER AND SALT
Start to finish: 40 minutes
4 tablespoons unsalted "sweet" European-butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon fleur de sel or other coarse sea salt
10-12 cleaned and trimmed radishes.
Nutrition information per serving of radishes with butter and salt: 104 calories; 102 calories from fat; 12 g fat (7 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 31 mg cholesterol; 1447 mg sodium; 0 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 0 g sugar; 0 g protein.