Sunday, March 22, 2009

An Unexpected Appreciation

I’m having a strange little love affair with radishes right now.  I know, it's strange.  I'm a little perplexed by it myself.

Maybe it’s because spring is here and these little ruby globes are coming into their peak season. Perhaps my new fixation is the result of my being recently bowled over by a canapé which involved a radish, one which had been thinly sliced and artfully arranged on a good baguette spread with glorious French butter and sprinkled with flaky sea salt. I’m not really certain what happened. All I know is that I find myself looking for any and every excuse to eat radishes right now.

Until recently, I never gave radishes a lot of thought. Honestly, I could take them or leave them. I remember reading a hilarious Tom Robbins novel in which he described the beet as the most passionate of vegetables, but he thought that the radish possessed the cold feverish fire of discontent and inquietude. That always struck me as apropos, for beneath their vivid pinkish-reddish exterior, I found radishes to be cool and pale as moonlight. Moonlight with a bite, that is.

But then one recent fine day, a radish snuck up on me and won me over. In some ways this new appreciation feels similar to developing a massive crush quite unexpectedly on someone you’ve known for years but never paid any serious attention to in the past, yet now you find yourself constantly thinking about this person and looking for any reason to throw yourself in his or her path. I never paid much heed to radishes whenever they appeared in a salad, and until this March, I don’t think I’d ever bought a single radish in my life. But in the past few weeks I have experienced them on a new level, and there has been a bundle of them in my shopping basket each time I’ve been to the store this month.

I went through a week of channeling my inner Frenchwoman by dipping small radishes in high quality Plugra butter from France and sprinkling them with my best fleur de sel (fine sea salt). This is a fairly typical French way to eat radishes, and I found myself craving crisp Sancerre sauvingnon blanc wines to accompany my new crush. Sometimes I added a baguette to my radishes and butter, making paper-thin slices of both the radishes and the bread and stretching the ingredients out to make as many canapés as possible.

I was planning to celebrate the first day of spring today with another round of buttered-baguette-and-radish delights. But when I encountered one of the greatest avocados of my life this afternoon, I had to rethink my plan. I know that is a strong statement, but I am not exaggerating when I make such a claim. I have bought an untold number of avocados in my lifetime, which I often mash into guacamole or dice as a garnish for a salad or soup, but until today, I honestly cannot recall an avocado as perfect as this beauty was. I am talking about a veritable TRIUMPH of an avocado. Its gorgeous green flesh was so impossibly velvety, so luxuriously ripe that I could hardly contain myself. This avocado practically begged me not to mash it up, instead asking me to appreciate it fully in thick unadulterated slices.

Avocados are an excellent source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, which is great news to those of us who thoroughly enjoy eating these rich fruits while still trying to be somewhat sensible in our eating habits. I ask you, who really needs imported French butter when you have a magnificent avocado like the one I devoured today? I decided that slices of my prized avocado layered on a baguette would be the ideal complement to my beloved peppery radishes this afternoon.

They were a beautiful duo. It pains me that these photos can hardly do them justice. The luscious green avocado contrasted with yet also supported the scarlet-rimmed radish rounds in perfect harmony, not only side by side on the cutting board but especially when layered together on the sliced baguette. And when I took my first bite, my taste buds begin to sing with joyful pleasure. Happy first official day of spring indeed!

This is not a strict recipe, but instead it is merely a guideline to point you in the direction of springtime happiness! Make as few or as many of these canapés as you can eat. I try to have the ingredients for this on hand at all times, for with these four ingredients you can whip up a fabulous yet unusual hors d’oeuvres in a few short minutes.

Red radishes, scrubbed well and ends trimmed, cut into paper-thin rounds
A ripe avocado, cut in half and thinly sliced
A good baguette, sliced on the diagonal into ¼-inch slices
Fleur de sel, or other fine sea salt

Arrange the baguette slices on a platter. Layer each slice of bread with an avocado slice or two, and top with several thin rounds of radish. Sprinkle each canapé with a pinch of flaky sea salt and enjoy immediately.

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