October 29th, 2014

Beautiful Inside

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A few years ago, farmer and friend Tallahassee May introduced me to this vibrant root vegetable, the Watermelon Radish. An apt name, I thought, for this member of the daikon family. It grows rather large–its size and heft ranging from golf ball to soft ball. A slice through the outer mottled green peel reveals a shock of magenta ringed in white.

I later learned that this heirloom is a native of China, and the Chinese have given it a better name: Xin Li Mei, which means Beautiful Inside.

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Sometimes our challenges in the kitchen mirror those in the world: how to uncover that inner beauty so often hidden?

Unlike other radishes—such as cherry bombs, white icicles and French Breakfasts, which have a bright snap and crunch—the slower-growing watermelon radish can be a bit on the tough side.

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I discovered this the first time I made a snack with them. Prepared in the French manner, it was a simple tartine: salted radish slice over soft butter on toasted bread. The big brilliant coins curled up on the open face sandwich, their earthy taste buffeted by leathery texture.

This time, I thought that the radishes might benefit from some “down time,” relaxing in a light vinaigrette before I’d place them on the rounds of bread.

I used avocado oil–clear, clean, slightly nutty in taste–to cloak them, (although a favored olive oil would work well too.) followed by a generous frill of grapefruit zest, a squeeze of the tart juice for acidic counterbalance, and scatter of coarse sea salt.

I covered the gleaming coins in plastic wrap. An afterthought (after I’d set aside the camera too), I placed a tea kettle, as a weight, on top, and left them alone for about an hour at room temperature.

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Meanwhile I sliced a crusty baguette, slathering each piece with creamy chevre.
Then, lifted the kettle and peeled back the plastic.

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Fragrant.

Time in the marinade, under the kettle’s weight infused a delightful citrus essence into the radish slices. Salting tenderized. Avocado oil made them glossy.

One by one, I placed the watermelon jewels onto the smeared bread rounds. Then took a bite.

Hmmm. Beautiful, inside and out.

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Call them Watermelon Radishes or Chinese Red-Meat …they are delicious marinated like a crudo in this recipe, or oven roasted in lemon and brown butter.

MACERATED WATERMELON RADISH-CHEVRE CROSTINI

1 pound watermelon radishes
coarse sea salt
4 tablespoons avocado oil
zest from one grapefruit
1-2 tablespoons grapefruit juice
12 ounces chevre, softened
1 crusty baguette, sliced 1/4 inch thick, toasted if desired
small bundle fresh chives, optional for garnish

Wash, peel and slice the watermelon radishes into thin rounds. Arrange the rounds on a plate or platter and sprinkle coarse sea salt over them. Drizzle avocado oil over the radishes, followed by sprinkles of grapefruit zest. Squeeze some grapefruit juice over the radishes too.
(Eat the grapefruit–or keep to slice on a salad!)

Cover with plastic wrap. Place a weight (like a tea kettle!) on top and allow the liquids to macerate the radishes, for about an hour.

Spread the softened chevre over the baguette slices. Uncover the platter of radishes, and place a macerated round on top of each slice. Garnish with chives.

Makes 3-4 dozen.

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Posted in Appetizers/Hors D'oeuvres, Recipes, Sandwiches, Vegetables, Vegetarian Dishes

13 Responses to “Beautiful Inside”
  1. Juliana Says:

    Oh Nancy…the first time I saw this watermelon radish was at Lemonade…where one of the salad had this radish with tuna…and I sure became a big fan of it…but never could find this in the market.
    These crostini are so pretty, and I can almost taste this macerated watermelon radish…beautiful as well.
    Have a great week :)

  2. Nancy Says:

    This is a new one for me; never heard of a Watermelon Relish!
    Thanks for bringing this one to our attention.

  3. Johanne Lamarche Says:

    I too remember the very first time I tasted a watermelon radish: at Silverspoon restaurant, a tiny farm to table, long before they were everywhere, in Strafford Pa. I never see them in the markets either. Loved the narrative of taming the radish’s unruly ways. Beautiful post, inside and out. Loved the final almost empty plate shot. Thank you Nancy.

  4. Michele | Cooking At Home Says:

    I have never heard of watermelon radishes, but now I have to search them out. These crostini would look beautiful on a holiday buffet table. Brilliant, Nancy.

  5. heather Says:

    Wow, these look amazing! What a wonderful dish for a party, thank you.

  6. Teresa, foodonfifth Says:

    These are just lovely Nance. I am a fan of radishes, especially Watermelon Radishes which seems to be frequently found at area markets in the spring and late fall…a cool weather favorite. Your crostinis topped with these jewels are just divine and I can just taste that crunch looking at your images.

  7. Kitchen Belleicious Says:

    oh my goodness. Why have I never seen this vegetable before. I mean it is so beautiful and vibrant in color you would think its more of a fruit. I love how you used it in a simple and classy way but still bringing out the flavor of the radish. I am so curious to taste it! Looks wonderful

  8. Barbara Says:

    Now why haven’t I ever seen these? Why doesn’t Whole Foods carry them? What a fun dish…love the looks and I bet delicious!

  9. Adri Says:

    Wow! I have never heard of this variety of radish before. They are beauatiful. I will have to see if I can find them around town somewhere. I love the way you have written about this humble veg. you have really captivated me.

  10. goodfoodmatters Says:

    I am so glad that I could show off this unique and vibrant radish to so many of you for the first time! It wasn’t so long ago that the Watermelon radish was new to me.

    I hope that you all can find them at your local farmers market or perhaps at an Asian grocery store, or Whole Foods.

  11. Tracy Says:

    I was fortunate to find a stall at the market selling watermelon radish on Sunday. I quickly bought a bunch. How could I not? I threw them into a purple frisee salad (lovely) and they’re in my lunchbox today as well. I hope to buy some whipped goat cheese at the market tomorrow so that I might replicate your recipe before week’s end.

    I’ve been enjoying your cookbook immensely. Your writing is wonderful and I’m really looking forward to the book signing.

  12. goodfoodmatters Says:

    So true, how could you not! Glad you found them, Tracy. They are special.
    I am looking forward to meeting you at the signing too. Thanks for your support!

  13. Tammy Says:

    They have become my favorite – just love the fresh taste.



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