Saturday, July 7, 2012

On Radish Salad and the Lost Art of Making Do

I evolved without that basic understanding of how to make food work for meals that anybody that existed before or during the 1960s seems to just know. Even into the 1980s, some schools and mothers were still teaching their kids how to make do. But for some reason, by the time I came of cooking age, I and a surprising number of my peers never learned figured out how to make meals out of random ingredients. We cook, sure. But we buy noodles, cheese, pasta sauce and meat so we can make lasagna. Instead of opening up the pantry and seeing a bunch of stuff and turning it into something amazing, we cook from recipes, whether from the internet or TV or even cookbooks. We say, "I want to make that," then we rush out to the store after work and buy the ingredients and then we make that.

In fact, it trips me out a little bit to serve one particular vegetable as a side dish. Radishes, in this example. But carrots, celery, cabbage...all perfectly appropriate to braise or serve with a dressing. But for me, these are items for a green salad and little more. Which I know isn't true, but when I had four little radishes leftover and no lettuce and I needed a side dish, I felt like quite the pioneer when I made them into a little salad. Don't judge me.

(Adapted from Mark Bittman's recipe.)

First, slice the radishes paper-thin. If you have a proper mandoline good for you. If you do not, use your vegetable peeler to shave off slice after slice.
Don't be grossed out by my black cuticle. Freak copy machine accidents take time to heal, you know.

Salt your little slices with a teaspoon of kosher salt and cover with water. After 10 minutes or so, drain the brine and rinse. Sprinkle with rice wine vinegar, pepper, salt to taste and a dribble of olive oil.

Hot, sharp, engaging, salty, and not bitter. Almost a palate-cleanser. Not bad room-temperature, but better cold.

Ta dah! A side dish out of a vegetable. Mind-blowing for everybody under 35.

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