I've managed to find a little slice of summer amid the chilliest of December days. Have you ever seen a watermelon radish? The exterior doesn't look all that enticing. It's a pale shade of muted green and could easily be overlooked as a ho-hum turnip. The magic of this little wonder however, lies on the inside. Once you slice into this radish, a smashing and vibrant magenta appears, radiating from the inside out, resembling...well, a watermelon. It's an ugly duckling turned beautiful swan situation, kind of like the summer you got your braces off and figured out how to tame your wild frizzy mane with hair products...or was that just me?
I scored this ugly-duckling-turned swan at a winter farmer's market, the only thing that will detangle me from my oversized blankets early Saturday morning. While it does involve stepping out into the icy cold weather (nineteen degrees yesterday!), I'm just a hop, skip, and a jump away from blasting my heated car seats, which I'm not ashamed to say, will remain on notch five until April. I pay no attention to the red splotches that have formed on my lower back en route to the market. To those who ride their bikes there, you are braver than I. The market, although indoor, is reminiscent of my summer farmers' market trips, and for a moment, I forget we are in the throes of the cruelest season. I grab a cup of kombucha, listen to the echoes of a guitar playing overhead, and start perusing the goods. If the smell of fresh baked bread doesn't warm you from the inside out, I don't know what will. The thrill of the unexpected find at a farmers' market is a feeling that can't be rivaled by a weekly trip to the supermarket. There was a great article in yesterday's Boston Globe and another in this month's Edible Boston about the surge of these winter markets, both with local listings if you happen to live in the area. And even if you don't live in the area, they are popping up in cities across the country.
I chose to create a simple crunchy salad with my watermelon radish. Despite its appearance, it's not fruity and sweet like it should seem to be. It is a radish after all, with a lingering peppery kick. Judging by the table at Winter Moon Farm, there is certainly a fan base following. Like most of my recipes, I wanted to keep it basic and chose to pair the watermelon radish with a cucumber, the cool guy that would mellow out the radish. I tossed in a few thinly sliced shallots with olive oil and lemon juice, and there you have it. Watermelon radishes have such a distinct flavor and taste; I wanted to let them do their own thing. A little of this goes a long way. It's great as a starter, served with crackers and cheese or hummus. It's also great served on top of a buttered crusty baguette. A goat cheese baguette works too. If you come across a watermelon radish, I hope you'll give them a chance, and keep this recipe on file for when you do. In any case, enjoy the photos. This one is a beauty. Isn't nature clever?
~Watermelon Radish Salad Recipe~
1 watermelon radish
1/2 large European cucumber, sliced
1 large shallot, sliced
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
few grinds from a pepper mill
sprinkle of sea salt
Cut off the top and bottom of the radish. If you have a mandolin, use it to make thin slices. From there, you can cut the slices into wedges. Otherwise, use a knife to thinly slice it. Combine watermelon radish, cucumber, and shallot in a bowl and drizzle with a mixture of lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Serves 4-6.