It’s radish season here in the greater Santa Barbara area, with about a dozen types prominently displayed at our various farmers’ markets throughout the week.
Encountered in an array of shapes, sizes, and colors, each offer a varying degree of peppery notes, moisture content, texture, and overall flavor profile. From the most common small red radishes that are often found sliced and served alongside your taco plate, to the larger watermelon radishes with their stunning magenta hued center, sampling through the assortment this time of year when their flavor is at their peak is something I really enjoy.
One of my favorite locally grown radishes is commonly referred to as the French breakfast radish, or simply breakfast radish. Unlike the rounded physique that is quite standard for most radishes, these take on a more elongated shape. Their outer skin displays a pleasing pink color that works down to a cream-colored tip. When sliced into thin rounds, the opaque moist flesh is exposed.
The flavor is subtly sweet with mild peppery notes throughout, while the texture is crisp and snappy. This is an ideal variety for those that prefer a milder flavored radish.
Breakfast radishes can be enjoyed in both raw and cooked preparations. In France, they are often scored with an X across the top and dipped in butter to be enjoyed as a snack. They are also nice simply enjoyed out of hand, sliced and dipped into your favorite hummus, or added to salads, sandwiches,and wraps.
Radishes, in general, are also a good addition to soups and stews, or roasted alongside other seasonal vegetables. I also enjoy sliced breakfast radishes over ramen bowls as well as them being pickled.
This week I prepared a chickpea soup, infused with fresh leeks, celery, and radish flavor. When making the soup, I used a smoked pork roast bone that was left over from a New Year’s Eve cook, which added an additional layer of rich smoky flavor.
Assuming you will not likely have one on hand, one can simply use chicken or vegetable broth and some ground cumin and smoked paprika to elevate the flavor.
Chickpea, leek and radish soup
1 cup dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans).
32 ounces chicken or vegetable stock.
14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes.
2 bay leaves.
1 teaspoon ground cumin.
1 teaspoon smoked paprika.
2 medium leeks, cut into thin rounds.
6 celery ribs, diced.
3 medium carrots, peeled and diced.
1 bunch breakfast radishes, sliced into thin rounds.
1 bunch fresh cilantro, bottom half with stems finely chopped and added to soup and top leafy portion chopped and used as garnish.
Seasoned salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste.
In a large pot, add dried chickpeas, broth, diced tomatoes, bay leaf, ground cumin and smoked paprika. Simmer for about 25 minutes, then add leeks, celery, carrots, half of your radish slices and the finely chopped stem portion of the cilantro bunch. Season with seasoned salt and pepper to taste and stir.
Let simmer for about 45 minutes, or until the chickpeas are cooked through and soft. Serve hot with garnish of remaining sliced radishes and fresh cilantro leaves. You can also add hot sauce, avocado, and sour cream if desired.
Yield: Serves 6.