Saturday, August 08, 2009

Recipe: Radish Cream Cheese Spread / Dip with Parsley, Scallions and Feta

Plus Advice for New Vegetable Gardeners and What Else to Do with Radishes


French Breakfast Radishes (Love that Name) Harvested in My Kitchen Garden last June

It's so easy to get sucked into the romantic allure of vegetable gardening. You scatter some seeds in the dirt, watch them burst forth and grow, and a few weeks later you gleefully skip outside wearing a straw hat and toting a cute basket to harvest armfuls of picture perfect bounty.

So effortless! So rewarding! So not what really happens most of the time—which is why many new gardeners quickly become frustrated, vowing to never again spend $164 and countless hours only to end up with four tomatoes, two small heads of bug-bitten cabbage, one scraggly basil plant, and so many giant zucchini their neighbors have started avoiding them (sort of like what happened to this guy).

Now you know I'm the last person to dissuade someone from starting an edible garden, and I personally think every unused, chemical-laden front lawn in the country should be torn up and turned into an organic potager. Homegrown anything always tastes better, and even after all these years I find nothing more rewarding than being able to step outside and pick part of my own lunch or dinner from my garden.

That said, I do have a few words of advice for budding gardeners. Please don't go crazy and mail order 75 different kinds of seeds during a snowstorm and/or cram your entire car full of seedlings from the nursery on the first day of spring. You're only going to end up totally overwhelmed—and annoyed. Instead, start small. Start with radishes. Radishes? I can hear you saying. Yes, radishes.


Colorful Easter Egg Radishes (and One French Breakfast) from My Garden

Most people don't know this, but homegrown radishes taste wonderful—crisp and peppery and alive with freshly dug flavor. They have fun names like French Breakfast, Crunchy Royale, and Easter Egg, come in a rainbow of beautiful colors, and are actually two crops in one because you can also eat the leaves, which are full of Vitamin C and calcium.

A member of the cabbage/cruciferous family (you know, the one whose members all have those amazing anti-cancer properties), the low calorie radish has been used over the years to help everything from runny noses and respiratory problems to digestive disorders and liver troubles.

But, most importantly, radishes will almost never let you down in the garden. You really do just scatter some seeds in the dirt (they prefer cool, moist soil), watch them burst forth and grow, and then a few weeks later gleefully skip out and harvest armfuls of picture perfect bounty—straw hat and cute basket optional. You can even grow radishes in pots.

That's all well and good, I can hear you saying, but what am I supposed to do with armfuls of radishes besides toss them in salads and carve them into mice and musicians?

All sorts of things. Chopped radishes add a pleasant zing to tuna salad, chicken salad, egg salad, potato salad, macaroni salad, and even fresh tomato salsa. You can toss them into your favorite coleslaw, and I just realized they'd be a great addition to my Mexican Jumping Bean Slaw.

Try layering sliced radishes on a roast beef sandwich, or use paper thin slices to garnish hot soups. Ooh, some finely chopped radishes would probably be perfect atop a chilled bowl of Quick & Easy Gazpacho (which I've been meaning to make for days). You can even braise radishes in a little butter, with or without some minced shallots, though I have yet to try this.

It's still too hot here in southern Missouri to plant more radishes yet, but when my next crop is ready, I'm determined to finally make some pickled radishes. I also don't want to be the only radish lover around who still hasn't enjoyed the classic French sandwich people are always swooning over: spread a halved crusty baguette (I'll use one of the Four Hour Parisian Baguettes I love so much) with your favorite butter, top with thinly sliced radishes, and sprinkle with some nice salt.

But what I really want to do is make a whole lot more of this simple yet scrumptious dip.

So what's your favorite way to eat radishes?



Refreshing Radish Spread/Dip
Makes about 2 cups
Inspired by Helen's recipe at Beyond Salmon via Alanna's version at A Veggie Venture


My Less Fuss, More Flavor way of cooking usually involves simplifying recipes, but this time I applied my More, More, More philosophy to the original three ingredient version of this healthy spread—upping the scallions (purple spring onions work well, too) and adding in some lemon juice, chopped parsley, and feta.

To make a thicker sandwich spread, use a little more cream cheese. I also like this mixed with cottage cheese, either eaten as a dip or in a dish with a spoon. I would have used even more radishes, but the spread started to get a little watery. Alanna makes her version with only 4 ounces of cream cheese, though, so it may depend on the variety of radishes you use.

The flavors improve after mingling for a little while, so make this at least a few hours before serving if you can. As always, I urge you to seek out local and organic ingredients—they really do make a difference in so many ways.

2 cups (8 ounces) halved or quartered radishes
1 cup chopped scallions, white and green parts (purple spring onions are nice, too)
½ cup (or more to taste) packed chopped fresh parsley
8 ounces (or more) cream cheese, softened
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (optional)
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¾ teaspoon salt (start with less if you're including the feta)
Several grinds of fresh pepper

Cottage cheese (optional)

Whiz the radishes, scallions, and parsley in a food processor until finely chopped. Add the cream cheese, feta cheese (if using—or you can always stir it into part or all of the batch later), lemon juice, salt, and pepper and process until smooth, scraping down the sides of the processor bowl as necessary. Add more cream cheese if you'd like a thicker sandwich spread, or stir in (or process in) some cottage cheese if desired.

Serve with fresh veggies, crackers, pita chips (made from homemade pita breads perhaps?), pretzels or baguette slices. Helen says her favorite springtime open-faced sandwich is a slice of bread with radish spread and smoked salmon, and Alanna likes stirring her spread into steamed broccoli. It will keep in the fridge for 3 days.

Still hungry? Here are a few more Farmgirl Fare dips and spreads you might enjoy:
Chives and Herbed Yogurt Cheese
Sour Cream and Onion Dip (and Foodie Travel)
Ridiculously Easy White Bean Pesto Spread
Quick Refried Black Bean Dip
Salsa-Like Green Tomato Relish
Hot Swiss Chard Artichoke Dip

© Copyright 2009 FarmgirlFare.com, the crisp and crunchy foodie farm blog where homegrown radishes aren't just a way of life—they're an adventure.

23 comments:

  1. Mmmm, I love radishes! What other recommendations do you have for new veggie gardeners (besides Swiss Chard)??

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  2. We have done the garden fight 2 years in a row. Maine has cool soil and a short growing season. Every year I swear that it will be my last. However, in the spring here we go again.I think radishes will be on next years seed purchase along with fennel. I have just found out I love that too. The dip looks awsome.
    Kelly

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  3. I grow those French Breakfast Radishes too! They are my favorite and most reliable kind. Thanks for the dip recipe. I will try it. I grow the radishes and then get tired of just using them in salads.

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  4. Oh, that's a grand idea : using radishes IN the dip! I haven't had much luck with radishes, and I don't know why. Maybe the soil is too acid, or too alkaline, but I end up with thready, spindly, pathetic seedling. Next time at the farmer's market I'll give in and buy a big bunch so I can make your dip.
    My favorite way to eat radishes is the traditional French way - unsalted or salted butter on french bread with a few layers of thinly sliced radishes!

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  5. Thanks for linking to the radish musicians. That caused a bit of a spike in the flickr stats today!

    You have great observations about gardening. Again, many thanks!

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  6. I've not previously been a fan of radishes and so have not planted them until this year. I went with daikon radishes though, because I wanted the option of letting them rot in the ground to improve organic content and drainage if it turned out I didn't care for them. (Credit for this idea goes to Toby Hemenway, author of Gaia's Garden.) Also, I've been wanting to try the Chinese "turnip cake" recipe, which is really prepared with daikon. I'm glad to have them growing out in my garden. They're looking fabulous, which is some consolation for the otherwise abysmal gardening year we've been having the the northeast.

    I'd love suggestions for daikon radishes in particular. Are they quite different from other types of radish? Or can I just use the daikon in any radish recipe?

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  7. I think I'm making this today. For company. To go with your Tomato Pesto Pie, which I've been bastardizing with Italian sausage for two summers now. LOVE.

    Thanks for the new idea of what to do with all these radishes. I usually slice them thin, soak them in a mix of lime juice and water and add them as a topping to pulled pork or shredded chicken tacos. :)

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  8. I just made my first batch of feta cheese from milk from a local farm. I don't have radishes in the garden, but have spotted french breakfast radishes at the farmers' market. Great recipe suggestion!

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  9. My favorite way to eat radishes is...

    1. pull from garden; rinse, but don't be afraid of the dirt - my son just wipes the dirt from carrots
    2. smear a dab of cold butter on
    3. sprinkle with sea salt

    Thanks for your great recipes!

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  10. oh my, that dip sounds delicious!

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  11. Yay for radishes!!
    Your post made me smile, beautifully said : )

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  12. Okay, now you got me thinking radishes. Summer gardening here in north Florida is pretty much coming to an end (90 degrees + everyday). Getting ready to plant shallots and garlic.....I am thinking early Fall, I ought to consider radishes :-) Thanks!

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  13. I love raw radishes in all kinds of salads, but recently tried cooking them...using a recipe from Joy of Cooking. They were surprisingly good. I just planted more yesterday!

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  14. Mostly in salads, since the radishes coincide with the Attack of the Neverending Lettuce. Though I did discover that chicken sandwiches, which I personally find a little bland and boring without some significant flavor boosting agent, are greatly improved by a layer of thinly sliced radishes.

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  15. I love radishes!! I've never grown them but I may give it a try next year. I love the name "French Breakfast Radishes". I'll have to try those. Thanks for such a fun posting and a yummy recipe - gotta try that too!!

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  16. Brilliant.

    The seeds (hopefully French Breakfast) are on my shopping list.

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  17. Hi Everybody,
    It's great to hear from all you radish lovers - and budding radish growers and radish dip makers!


    Hi Heidi,
    When you've conquered radishes and are ready to move on to growing other veggies from seed, I recommend lettuce, arugula, and yes, my favorite, Swiss chard.

    Here are links to some posts from my kitchen garden blog to help get you started:

    How To Grow Your Own Gourmet Lettuce from Seed—It's Easier than You Think!

    Direct Seeding Lettuce in the Garden and How To Thin Lettuce Seedlings

    How to Go from Seed to Salad Bowl in Less than a Month with Arugula and More

    How To Grow Your Own Swiss Chard from Seed and Why You Should

    Happy gardening!

    Hi Kate,
    I've been tempted by the daikon radish seeds in catalogs but have yet to try growing—or even eating—them. I love the rot in the ground idea, though!

    Hi Kristin,
    Radishes in chicken salad sounds delish—I've added it into the post. Thanks!

    P.S. My word verification is 'micing,' : )

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  18. Ha! I was going to mention how much I love a radish spread -- but then, wait! you'd already found that recipe. So glad it works for you!

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  19. Yep. Made this yesterday just like I said I would and YUM.

    Great recipe for a dip and a spread. Tonight I will have it on my sandwich with more sliced radishes and kosher salt.

    Thank you for this :)

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  20. I grew and ate lots of radishes this spring/early summer. I best way I relish them is to make a yogurt dip called raita to go with rice dishes. Grate the radish, add greek yogurt, salt. Then heat 1 tsp of oil, sputter black mustard seeds, cumin seeds, chopped jalapenos and our it on the radish dip.
    But this year some of my radishes went to flower and I was very curious to let them to pods. And the pods are the best yet I must say. Crunchy, sweet with a mild radish taste. Really good as salad.

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  21. In my house we love a simple Radish dip with tortilla chips. It is just some radishes, a few cloves of garlic and a box of cream cheese. Blend that together and tasty!

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  22. wow! ur dip looks delicious.. i am thinking about growing my own radishes.. thanks 4 sharing this.

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  23. I just found your Radish Dip recipe. It tastes nice but was a little watery so I think you may be right when you say it depends on the radishes you use.

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January 2013 update: I know word verification is a big pain, but it's the only way I can stop the ridiculous number of anonymous spam comments I get every day. I don't want to require commenters to be registered Blogger or Open ID users because I know many of you aren't. Thanks so much for your understanding!

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