My first and clearest food memory is standing in a field with my parents and putting a whole sprig of cilantro in my mouth. It tasted green, juicy, and fresh. I also distinctly remember the flavor of soil, probably because the farmer who had agreed to give us a tour of his farm had just pulled it from the earth. To this day, I love cilantro and can’t taste it without going back to that specific moment.
As we spend less and less time outdoors and become further removed from growing and harvesting our own food, I worry that new generations won’t get to experience what I experienced that day at the farm: a sense of connection between the earth, what I was eating, and the person who had grown it. I also worry that we have forgotten to take the time to really taste the individual ingredients that we use in our cooking and appreciate them for what they are. There is beauty in simplicity and learning to appreciate individual flavors is a big part of becoming a better cook.
I recently had the chance to spend some time in Stockholm and was blown away by how much respect they have for the individual ingredients that are in season. Two different restaurants (one fancy, one just a casual pizza place) made a point of featuring locally grown radishes as a starter. They were presented as simply as possible: either just the whole radish or a bunch of them accompanied by butter and salt. I was a bit skeptical but, as soon as I took a bite, I was hooked. The combination of the three ingredients (radish, butter, and salt) was extremely pleasing, but I also loved that you got to taste each one individually. It turns out that raw radish leaves are surprisingly tasty and refreshing.
Radishes are currently in season in Washington, so I couldn’t resist recreating the dish. As soon as the weather starts to warm up and all the fresh produce becomes available, I go into crazy cooking mode and love to have people over. What I don’t love, however, is having to spend hours over a hot stove making food. These radishes make the perfect appetizer for entertaining. They are fancy enough for an elegant dinner party, yet simple enough to be served at a barbecue before any of the main dishes.
Since it’s an extremely simple dish, I recommend that you use the freshest and tastiest butter that you can find. If you have the time, I recommend that you make your own butter. It’s super easy; I promise! I was lucky enough to attend a soft cheese making class provided by a local creamery, and I was both embarrassed and delighted to find out that you can make butter in about 10 minutes by simply putting heavy cream in a jar and shaking it. There were about twelve of us in the class, and we all had a great time passing the jar around and shaking it. This leads me to believe that butter making is also a perfect way to keep the little ones entertained.
Just keep in mind that it’s a bit hard to predict how much butter you will end up with because this depends on the method you use and how thick your cream is. You tend to get bigger yields if you make it in a jar or by churning it rather than in a food processor or stand mixer. Still, feel free to do what I did and pop the whole thing in your stand mixer if you don’t want to do the shaky shaky. I started out with two cups of cream and ended up with less than half a pound of butter.
Bonus: when you make butter, you also get buttermilk which you can then use to make pancakes, salad dressings, and all kinds of delectable goodies. I’ve included pictures of the butter-making process so that you can see what it looks like when the butter and buttermilk finally separate.
Radishes with Homemade Butter and Salt
This deceptively simple appetizer is all about showcasing the freshest ingredients and is perfect for entertaining.
- ½ pound of your favorite radishes with the tops on (I used a combination of French and white radishes)
- Maldon salt
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- Crusty bread (optional)
- Step 1 To make the butter. Put the heavy cream in the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk on high for about 10 minutes. I started with cold cream straight from the fridge, so it actually took about 15 mins for the butter to be ready. If you start with cream that’s between 58° and 62℉, it will turn to butter more quickly.
- Step 2 When the solids separate from the buttermilk (see picture above), stop the mixer and drain the buttermilk using a fine mesh sieve. Save the buttermilk for baking or for salad dressings.
- Step 3 Rinse the butter under cold running water while pressing down with a wooden spoon until the water runs clear. If you don’t drain the butter well, it will go rancid really quickly.
- Step 4 Form the butter into a log by using a piece of cling wrap and store it in the fridge for up to two weeks. You can also add salt at this stage if you wish to. You can freeze the butter and use it later if necessary.
- Step 5 If you want to make this in a jar, I suggest using a canning jar with a two-piece lid to avoid any spills. You just shake it vigorously for 10 mins or until you begin to hear the butter sloshing around inside the jar. Rinse well and follow the rest of the instructions for storing.
- Step 6 To assemble. Cut a generous piece of the butter and sprinkle it with Maldon salt. Arrange the radishes around it and serve with some crusty bread on the side if desired.