Farmer’s Radish and Apple Salad
We love to celebrate the bounty of summer’s fresh produce. One of my favorite activities is exploring the local farmer’s markets and selecting a variety of fresh local produce to keep us fed all week. There are few things that will get me out of bed before 11 am on a Saturday (yes, I wake up around 7 am, but I refuse to get out of bed until absolutely necessary), but the lure of crispy radishes, juicy tomatoes, shiny baby eggplant and slender green beans will go a long way towards jiggling my arse into action. A few weeks ago, I couldn’t get enough of the fresh kale and garlic scapes. Now my heart is getting all aflutter at the sight of gorgeous radishes, long or squat, and the last young green aromatics from early spring.
You can buy radishes pre-cleaned and bagged at most grocery stores, but I like to get them in a bunch with the greens still attached. Not only do they stay crisp with a longer shelf life, but the greens are packed with vitamin C and calcium. Historically, radishes were used medicinally for gallbladder and liver woes (due to the sulfurous chemicals that increase the flow of bile), which is also good news for people like me who enjoy washing down their healthy radish salad with a bottle of chilled Sauvignon Blanc.
I call this “farmer’s” salad, because I have a bit of an inborn bias to consider anything fresh in a buttermilk dressing to be all overalls and hayseed, in the best possible way, and not because I have actually trolled farm country for recipes or met any farmer who endorsed it. Although, I think they would. If I was a farmer, I would be mighty darn pleased to see my radishes get put to such good use, greens and all.
Farmer’s Radish and Apple Salad
Serves 4-6 as a side dish
- 2 small bunches fresh radish (~ 1 lb), with greens attached
- 1 large Honeycrisp apple (~3/4 lb) *
- 2 large celery ribs
- 2 fresh spring garlic stalks **
- 1/3 cup buttermilk
- 1 lemon, juice only
- 1.5 tbsp mayonnaise
- 1.5 tsp Dijon mustard
- 2 – 3 sprigs tarragon
- 2/3 cup pecans
- salt and pepper, to taste
* Honeycrisp is my favorite “eating” apple. If you can’t find Honeycrisp, any crisp, sweet, large and firm type of fresh apple will do. I would recommend (again with my favorites)Fuji, Pink Lady or Cortland. Honeycrisp are generally quite large apples, so if you substitute a smaller variety you may want to use 1.5 – 2 apples.
** Never heard of spring garlic? I hadn’t either until I read this post by the very funny Spiteful Chef. Very seasonal, this young garlic is only available from spring until early/mid summer and then it disappears. The flavor is, as you can imagine, quite garlicky, but fresher and reminiscent of pungent scallions at the same time. If you don’t have access to spring garlic, substitute one medium clove of garlic (minced or mashed and whisked into the dressing) and 3 slender spring onions, both the stem and greens.
Use the freshest possible ingredients for this salad; the spring garlic should be just picked, the radishes crunchy and crisp, and the apple sweet and juicy but firm.
Pour the buttermilk into a large mixing bowl for ease of salad tossage. Yes, tossage is a real word. Whatever, it is now. Squeeze in all the juice from a nice plump lemon and dollop in the mayonnaise and Dijon mustard. Season lightly with salt and pepper before whisking the dressing together.
If you’ve never seen a cross section of spring garlic, here goes. It looks a lot like green onion but with a much wider bulb at the base and the stems tend to be woodier. Be sure to use the spring garlic when it is as fresh as possible because as it ages those lovely long green tips will get even tougher until they feel like pretty green dowels. The center pith of the garlic may also be a bit tough. If so, after you slice the bulb in half you can simply remove it.
Mince the tarragon leaves and green garlic, using only the bulb and about 6 inches of the green stem, or until it feels tough. Fold the tarragon and minced spring garlic into the dressing.
Core the apples and dice them into small half inch chunks of roughly even size. Cut the radishes into similarly sized chunks and slice the celery lengthwise 2-3 times before slicing it into a smaller dice, roughly one quarter of the size of the apples and radish.
Now then, the radish greens. Wash the greens well because they’re filthier than a pageant of swine most of the time. Gently dry the greens as much as possible, using a salad spinner or patting them dry with paper towel and then spreading them out in a single layer on a tea towel. Coarsely chop just over half of the radish greens (depending on how much greenery was left on the radish bundle) until you have 1.5 cups.
Toast the pecans in a dry pan over medium heat, or on a pan in a 375ºF oven for 6-8 minutes, until they are golden and fragrant. Leave them whole or give them a rough chop as you please.
Gently toss the apples, radish, celery and radish greens in the dressing and chill until meal time. Sprinkle with toasted pecans right before the salad is served.
For a light dinner on these steaming hot summer days, a chilled and field fresh apple and radish salad with some grilled turkey sausages is just what the Weatherman ordered.
After all, you know the old saying: a radish a day keeps the scurvy away. Not the farmers, mind you. They’ll be gathered around giving you high-fives.