Forget Raw: Roast Your Radishes for Maximum Mileage

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Radishes are more than just a vegetable to be eaten raw. [Photographs: Vicky Wasik]

There was a time, many years ago, when I'd look at the heaps of radish bunches at the farmers market, admire their vivid red and pink colors, and then think, "What the heck does anyone do with that many radishes?"

Back then, a radish, to me, was a tasty root vegetable to be eaten raw, its crisp bite and slightly peppery flavor best enjoyed sliced thinly in salads, for instance, or nibbled on as a snack with butter and salt. Problem was, those uses got me through maybe two or three radishes in a bunch before I'd had my fill.

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By now, I think you can see where this is going: The mistake I made was in following the popular perception of radishes as a raw-only vegetable. The truth is, they're just as good—if not better—cooked. One of the best things about cooking radishes is the way it tames their spicy flavor, making them much easier to eat in bulk. These days, I can eat my way through an entire bunch in one sitting and still want more.

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My favorite way to prepare them is to roast them in the oven, which works with most radish varieties, like classic red Cherry Belles and the pink-and-white French Breakfasts. Radish bunches often include a range of radish sizes, from tiny ones to big fatties, so the first step is to cut the larger ones in halves or quarters so that all the pieces are roughly similar in size (though a little variation won't hurt them).

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Then toss them in some oil, arrange them on a baking sheet, and cook them in the oven until they've transformed from firm and snappy to tender and bursting with juice—that usually takes somewhere around a half hour to 40 minutes. Once they're fully cooked, their aggressiveness fades away, leaving behind a pleasantly mild, turnip-like flavor (which makes sense, since they're closely related).

Once they come out of the oven, you can choose to spruce them up any way you like. Here, I keep things very simple by tossing them in a skillet with a little melted butter and minced fresh herbs, like parsley and tarragon. They make an excellent side dish, especially for roasted meats like chicken or pork.

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So, the next time you're staring at an overwhelming number of radishes at the market, go ahead and grab a few bunches with no fear of how you'll ever manage to use them up. They'll be gone before you know it.

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