Saturday, November 14, 2009

Black Magic Radish

The Black Radishes arrived in stealth by night, then at daybreak, sought cover in a nest of verduras to the side of the puesto de Los Padilla in the mercado de Pátzcuaro.

These rarely seen, dark and mysterious vegetables are a special delight for some of us whose heritage is from the eastern side of Europe. They look something like an anarchist's bomb from the reign of the Tsars.

We were shopping for vegetables and fruits in the mercado yesterday and I was surprised to find two large black radish roots other than at Los Padilla. When I asked the Señora how much, she pointed  to the larger and said, "Cincuenta pesos", and the smaller, "Treinta." I felt that was a little high, so we passed them up.

As we were winding up our marketing, we stopped by los Padilla to see what special items they might have.

From El Mercado de Pátzcuaro 6/5/09 4:28 PM
Los Padilla, Arturo y Sra. Rosa.

Whle I waited as they served other customers, my eye caught the two black radishes hidden to the side of the stand, under a cover of acelgas  (chard) or some similar verduras.
Arturo asked only $20 MXN for a substantial black radish, a very good price. It weighed perhaps 500 grams.

Soon after we arrived home, I started to prepare a version of my Mom's Black Radish Salad.

Given the unusual size of the specimen, I hard cooked 4 eggs, 2 more than usual. When they were cool, I first washed, peeled and disinfected the radish. The skin was unusually coarse and almost scaly, evoking mental images of black iguanas.


I then cut it into pieces that would fit down the feed tube of our Cuisinart food processor. I set up a coarse shredding disk in the processor.

I cleaned one small onion and peeled the hardcooked eggs. It's an easy task to run the sections of black radish, the eggs and the onion through the shredding disk. The contents were then transferred to a large mixing bowl. (On reflection, it might have been somewhat better to first shred he eggs, the onion, then the radish; which would serve to better clean the shredding plate. Also, the hardcooked eggs shred better when chilled.)
Salt and freshly ground pepper were applied to taste.

Now, we come to a fork in the culinary road. Traditionally, rendered chicken fat cooked down slowly with onions is lightly applied to the salad and tossed in. As we don't have schmaltz und grebenes on hand, I used olive oil. It's less interesting but healthier. One could use toasted Oriental sesame oil to good effect, I think.

It seemed lacking in pungency, so I took the radical step of reconstituting some wasabi in a little water, letting it repose 5 minutes to develop "heat", then blended it into the salad.

Taste again: a few drops of lime juice or white wine vinegar, perhaps, and it's ready to eat. We served it to ourselves on romaine leaves flanked by strips of sweet orange pepper.

Here's another blog's essay on Black Radish: Weird Vegetables.

And this Black Radish Beer is a German style dark beer, but I hope that it doesn't really contain black radish. That would be too weird.

(There's also a Jewish-Eastern European conserve of black radish and ¿honey? which I must investigate. It's not this recipe by Mimi Sheraton, for a long keeping conserve. It definitely has honey in it.)


Bob Mrotek said...

Wow Don Cuevas! Great post! What a romantic root crop. The Latin name is "Raphanus sativus" and the French name is "Gros Noir d'Hiver". The Spanish name is "Rábano Negro Redondo". The English name "The Black Radish" would make a great name for a pub. So would "El Rábano Negro". Hmmm, I'll drink to that. I think I'll have a beer :)

Best Wishes, Marie said...

very interesting. it is amazing how many different fruits and vegetables that there are, and we in the US just eat the same 2-3 varieties of potatoes, lettuce, etc...

Don Cuevas said...

Thanks, Bob and Marie. By the way, a special Bienvenidos to Marie, who has not posted here before.

Bob, I knew this one might appeal to you.
I'm waiting to hear from Tancho.

Don Cuevas

Don Cuevas said...

Wow. It took some heavy Googling, but I found a recipe for Russian Radish Preserves.

Don Cuevas

Leslie Harris said...

I have never seen a black radish. But now that I know that they can be found in Mexico, I will be on the lookout.

Thank you also for explaining what the different greens available are. I see and use acelgas alot, but didn't know the English name.

Don Cuevas said...

Leslie Limon, there are many more greens in the Mexican diet than acelgas. But that is our top favorite. It can be prepared simply and tastily.

Besides acelgas, there's espinacas, quelites, verdolagas, huauzontles, etc.
And, (UGH!) romeritos, which is somewhat slimy when cooked, so sand is left in, in order that smelly tortitas de camarón not slide off your plate. ;-)

(I have had romeritos en mole at a friend's house, sin tortitas de camarón, and it wasn't bad.)

Really, las verduras Mexicanas have been dealt with elsewhere. For example, om the Mija Chronicles and Mexico Cooks!

Don Cuevas

Anonymous said...

Mike - the black radish beer doesn't contain real black radishes, I believe it's a combination of the black "schwartz" style of beer and the name of the brewpub.

Don Cuevas said...

Thanks, Anonymous. We kind of figured that out.

I can see eating radishes while drinking beer; or black radish salad while drinking beer, but the thought of beer actually made with radishes is too gassy to contemplate.

Don Cuevas