Ask most people how they eat radishes, one of my favorite ingredients of the season, and I bet most of them will talk about thin raw slices: on a salad, on pizza, in a sandwich or grain bowl. Or they’ll tell you about a not-so-secret French appetizer: raw radishes served with salted butter.
I love all that, for the crunch and peppery bite. But when radishes are raw, a little can go a long way. So if you’re trying to dispatch a bunch or two, I recommend that you crank up the oven and roast them instead. As with so many vegetables, roasting brings out radishes’ sweet side, and they soften without getting mushy. Plus, they end up looking like little jewels.
This recipe from one of my favorite vegetarian cookbook authors, Anna Jones, includes some more unexpected touches. Sure, there are roasted potatoes, plus a little honey and lemon. But how about something else you probably have never roasted: French green lentils? They’re already cooked when they go in the oven, where they crisp up to lend loads of texture to every bite of this warm salad. Fresh greens - lemony sorrel if you can find it, spinach if you can’t - and a quick buttermilk dressing make this dish as bright and brilliant as the first few weeks of spring.
1 1/2 cups dried French green lentils (du Puy; may substitute black beluga lentils), picked over and rinsed
4 cups water
1 pound radishes (no greens), trimmed
1 pound new potatoes, scrubbed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest and 3 tablespoons juice (from 1 large lemon)
1 tablespoon honey (may substitute agave nectar)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or more as needed
1/4 cup buttermilk (may substitute thin plain yogurt)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups lightly packed sorrel or spinach leaves
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Combine the lentils and water in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat until the liquid is gently bubbling and cook until the lentils are barely tender, 20 to 25 minutes. If you’re cooking the lentils in advance, reserve the cooking liquid for storage. When ready to use, drain the lentils, spread them out on a clean dish towel and pat them dry.
Cut the radishes and potatoes into halves, if small, or quarters, if larger (to get them roughly the same size). Toss them on a large, rimmed baking sheet with 1 tablespoon of the oil, half the lemon juice, the honey and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Roast for 15 minutes, shaking the pan once or twice to move them around.
While the radish mixture is roasting, on a separate baking sheet, mix the cooked lentils with another 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, 1 teaspoon of the oil and all the lemon zest. Transfer the sheet to the oven with the radish mixture, and cook both until the lentils are crisped and starting to blister in places, and the radishes and potatoes are soft and starting to brown at the edges, 15 minutes.
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Meanwhile, whisk together the buttermilk, the remaining lemon juice and the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil in a liquid measuring cup. Season with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and the pepper. Taste, and add more salt as needed.
Toss the lentil, potato and radish mixture with the sorrel or spinach leaves on a large platter. Drizzle the buttermilk dressing over the top, and serve warm.
Source: Adapted from “The Modern Cook’s Year,” by Anna Jones (Abrams, 2019).
NUTRITION: Calories: 450; Total Fat: 9 g; Saturated Fat: 1 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 520 mg; Carbohydrates: 69 g; Dietary Fiber: 32 g; Sugars: 7 g; Protein: 23 g.