An Afternoon with French Breakfast Radishes

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No gym this morning and the French press stays where we left it yesterday. It’s Saturday and I’ve been looking forward to the market all week. Jeans on. Teeth brushed. Off we go.

The Saturday Morning Market in St. Petersburg is a trek from our place in the ‘burbs of north Hillsborough, but the trip is worth it every time. We hit up the first coffee stand we see and mosey around the rest of the market in search of this morning’s pastry. A brioche-like cake for Danny. The fluffiest macaroon dipped in chocolate for me.

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We head to my favorite tent, the big one for Worden Farm. Their tables are always stacked high with fresh, organic produce, but today, we’re late. They’re out of that deeply green savoy cabbage I can never get my hands on and the line stretches long and loops several times around like a garden snake. Danny gets in line. I hustle over to the greens and fill my basket with arugula, kale, and brussels sprouts. I grab a bunch of perky sunflowers and start to slow down near the kohlrabi, propped up like purple roses, when I see the radishes. The French breakfast ones with their elegant, long shape and pink and white tones.

Deborah Madison, a woman who knows her vegetables with a veracity I aspire to, says people pick up radishes as soon as they see them because they’re so pretty. And yet they often end up forgotten in a crisper drawer. Not me, I thought. I wouldn’t let these beauties fade away.

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I’d braised those more common red, globe-shaped radishes with bacon, but as we made our way from the market to Mazzaro Italian Market (part two of our Saturday mornings across the bay) I wondered how I could best serve up these blushing ones.

Once inside, we made our way to the back of the store. Danny, on a mission for prosciutto. Me, trying not to get elbowed at the buzzing bread and cookie counter. Two cinnamon pecan biscotti. Two pistachio. One glorious Tuscan bread ring. Ours. We reunited in the cheese section where they have weekend wine tastings and it’s a little more relaxed. A milky ball of fresh mozzarella found its way into our basket and soon we were at a counter sampling pâté with truffle.

“Try this one with the Sancerre!” a Frenchman said as he handed us bites of bread and another spread made with Sauternes. We obliged. And with the rich taste of it still on my tongue, we picked up a couple bottles of wine. Rosé, of course, because it’s spring.  Back home, I arranged everything on the dinner table. Something sort-of French, sort-of Italian was coming together, all in shades of pink and dusty rose.

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French breakfast radishes are more delicate and mild than other varieties, and I decided to serve it as the French do. Simply. All you need is butter, salt, and good bread. A bit of prep work and suddenly we had a feast perfect for a leisurely afternoon on these warmer days. The only thing that could have made this snack better is to take it al fresco. Make this soon and make it a picnic.

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french breakfast radish tartine

The French do radishes right. The milder, delicate French breakfast radishes are perfect served simply with butter, salt, and bread. Round out this snack with a bottle of rosé, cheese, and prosciutto, and you’ve got a feast for a leisurely afternoon in the spring. It’s unclear where the ‘breakfast’ part came into the name for this variety, but I like them for the afternoon.

These radishes tend to become pithy much more quickly than other varieties, though once you try a couple tartines it shouldn’t be difficult to finish the bunch in a day or two. Use the greens in a sauté or salad.

a bunch of French breakfast radishes
a baguette or other country loaf in several thick slices
butter, softened
flaky salt (I use Maldon)

Rinse radishes under cool water and scrub gently to remove any dirt. Pick radishes off from the greens, removing the root ends as well. Use a mandoline or a sharp knife to slice radishes thinly lengthwise.

Spread butter onto a slice of bread (toasted or not, your call) and arrange radishes on top. Sprinkle with flaky salt.

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