This time of year in the mid-Atlantic states, our gardens, farmers' markets and CSA Farmboxes are not yet full of variety. We are all seeing mostly lettuce, spinach, and a lot of red radishes. There is nothing wrong with a trimmed bunch of crisp radishes, nibbled with some good buttered bread and salt. Nonetheless, I decided to rummage for some other ideas, and found two, browsing cookbooks at the downtown library at lunchtime.
The first is a Radish Cream Soup With Lavender, from Cooking in the Shaker Spirit, by James Haller. This book is not about historical recreations of documented Shaker dishes. Haller was the chef for the restaurant at New Hampshire's Canterbury Shaker Village. He created these recipes there, with the idea of preparing the sort of simple, but inventive dishes, based on fresh food and herbs, for which the Shaker's were known. This is the only recipe I've made from the book, and like some of the others, it seemed decidedly odd.
Actually, I think it is delicious. Whether this is due primarily to the lavish quantites of cream and butter, I am not sure. I can definitely taste the radishes though, as well as the lavender, and I like both flavors here. This soup is meant to be served hot, but would likely also be good cold. I'd make a thinner version to serve cold- with less roux, as it seemes thicker when chilled. I liked it hot, though, with seeded crackers.
The pale pink color makes it seem a bit doll's tea-party-ish, leading me to serve it in the decorated tea cups. These are, though, kind of frilly, and not awfully in tune with the Shaker spirit. A simple, sturdy, nicely designed pottery bowl would be more suitable. I suppose. The soup is not at all wimpy tasting, and it is very rich. It can be served in quite small portions. When I cooked the radishes to begin with, I tasted them, and I can report that sliced red radishes stewed in plenty of butter are very good indeed. Some fresh dill on them would make a nice veg side dish.
The lavender I used was from a friends (unsprayed, untreated) garden. If you would like to try this soup (I hope someone will, and tell me if you think I'm crazy ) this is what you need:
sliced red radishes 2 cups
unsalted butter 1 stick (1/2 cup)
flour (1/2 cup)
white wine 1 cup
cream 2 cups (I used part creme fraiche, because I had some)
milk 2 cups
lavender a few sprigs
Melt the butter in a soup pot. Add radishes and cook slowly for 5-7 minutes. Whisk in flour, and stir well, making a roux. Stir in wine and cream and milk to combine. Blend with immersion blender (easiest) or other method, until smooth. Add lavender and simmer 30 minutes. I added salt and white pepper-it didn't need much of either.
The second dish is even simpler to fix. From the Second Moro Cookbook, by Sam and Sam Clark, it is a Radish Salad with Orange Blossom Water, "refreshing and exotic." You need:
sliced trimmed radishes
finely grated orange rind of 1 orange
orange blossom water 1 tbsp
chopped flat leaf parsley
chopped fresh mint
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and black pepper
Toss together and serve. This is very nice with flatbreads and/or grilled meat or chicken. It is sort of halfway between a relish and a salad.
Sadly, I only got to eat one bowl of the soup. The rest perished due to the weekend demise of my fridge (really my landlord's fridge, but my food) , which apparently stopped working sometime on Friday night, not to be discovered until my return home Saturday afternoon. All sorts of ruined goodies and groceries. And I had just made stock! Aaargh.
Addendum: I have just realized that both of these radish things fit within the
Perfumed Garden "Spice is Right" event at Tigers and Strawberries. I'm late, but what's new?