One of the things that excites me most is to take a humble vegetable and turn it into something exquisite.
Like… a simple radish.
Most of us are very familiar with the cheerful little bulbs. Round and bright red, they can be found on the shelves of every grocery store, year-round. Radishes are mostly eaten raw, in salads or on their own; their leafy tops are usually thrown away without a second thought.
But this unassuming little root has so much more to offer. Not only do the bulbs turn sweet and nutty when roasted, but their leafy tops make the most delicious cooked greens. It only takes a mouthful of this radish-top soup and a bite of the fennel-roasted roots to be a convert.
I love to serve this soup side by side with the roasted roots. Take a bite of the sweet, fennel-infused roots along with a spoonful of the spicy, silky green-top soup and you’ll agree: the humblest of vegetables can truly be transformed into a heavenly experience.
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Food & wine pairing: Riesling with radish-top soup
Try a dry or slightly off-dry Riesling. The exotic and floral notes, as well as the minerality typical of Riesling, work beautifully with these recipes. And if you can, seek out the marvelous Rieslings of Hermann J. Wiemer from the Finger Lakes, New York. (For an article and tasting notes I wrote on this wine, click here.)
Radish-top soup and slow-roasted radish roots with fennel
serves 4 to 6
active time: 30 min
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 4 shallots – skinned, halved and finely sliced (1 1/4 cups)
- 1/4 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
- 2 garlic cloves – skinned and finely sliced
- 8 oz (225 g) Yukon Gold potatoes – peeled and cut in 1/2″ cubes (1 1/4 cups)
- 3 cups vegetable stock
- 2 1/2 cups spring water
- 1 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 12 oz (340 g) radish tops (or mustard greens) – tough stems removed, leaves and tender stems cut in 1/2″ strips (14 cups loosely packed)
- 1 tablespoon crème fraîche
- Step 1: Heat a large heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, shallots, red pepper flakes and garlic; stir well and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes until softened, stirring from time to time. Add the potatoes, stock, water, salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil. Add the radish leaves, stir well and continue to boil until wilted, about 1 to 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium/medium-low, cover the pot and slow-simmer for 20 minutes until the potatoes are tender.
- Step 2: Add the crème fraîche and purée the soup with a stick blender or food processor until silky smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed and keep warm. Place a small mound of the roasted radish roots on a plate. Ladle the soup in a small bowl and place next to the roots. Drizzle the infused oil on the soup and serve immediately.
- Cook’s note: The soup can be refrigerated for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 1 month.
- Use only the tender part of the stems to make the soup.
The common radish has very tender stems and the leafy tops can be used whole. But other varieties — like the watermelon, luobo or China rose radishes — have thicker stems that are a bit fibrous and will need to be trimmed.
- Trim the thicker part of the stems, as shown above, and discard.
- Weigh the leaves and tender stems for the soup. You should have 12 oz (340 g) or 14 cups of loosely packed, coarsely chopped leaves.