I n January I posted the first recipe in a series entitled Snack Attack. Within this chapter of recipes, I hope to offer delicious and healthy snack options that are within easy reach when the cravings hit. Though it’s been several months, and I was wholly distracted by the Spring pea crop that just sprang, I haven’t forgotten about my promise to provide a multitude of munchy-zapping recipes. So here it is – Exhibit B. I could eat this every day (read: I have been for the past three).
This dish was born from a consideration of cravings. I pondered the combinations of ingredients that meld into a quick-fix nosh that both fuels the body and consistently satisfies the urge to nibble. Somehow, one must pack a variety of textures, nutritional properties (i.e., fat, protein, carbohydrate, and vitamin content; expansive-contractive effect), and flavors into one simple snack. It’s a tall order, but I’m working on it. The recipe below is a fabulous place to start (eating).
Radishes are classically eaten with softened cultured butter and sea salt – the ultimate after-school snack for the children of France (so I’ve heard; mine was Oreos and acidophilus milk or Ruffles in ranch). Though I truly adore butter, I wanted to work with something a little out of the ordinary. I thought about the richness the butter lends to the radishes, taming their spice, thus rendering them more enjoyable to eat. I wondered, is there a member of the plant kingdom that could serve a similar purpose?
Enter pine nuts. Soaked to soften and put through the wringer in the handy food processor, they morph into a bright, sumptuous, and creamy puree. Though I usually toast pine nuts before using, this particular dish calls for the mellow flavor and white appearance they possess when raw. Not only does this recipe require a mere five minutes of active cooking AND cleaning time, the pine nut puree is quite versatile as well. It is great as a dip (as described in the recipe below) for radishes, blanched green beans, or pungent herbs. It makes a fabulous spread for some hearty rye or pumpernickel bread – topped with thinly sliced radishes, nori-salt, and garlic chives, we may have the newest addition to the tea sandwich category in over a hundred years. The pine nut puree can be layered with pesto between thick slices of ripe Brandywine tomatoes –Viola!, a speedy snack reminiscent of lasagna. Thinned with a little water and perhaps a dash of olive oil, the puree morphs into a lovely dressing for a crunchy romaine salad. You can add garlic for kick or cayenne for heat – use your imagination and accommodate your palate. The puree can be made in large batches and refrigerated for up to five days; whenever a little fuel, crunch, and munch is needed, it is there for you.
RADISHES are Asian in origin and have been cultivated for thousands of years. They are members of the cabbage family, but despite their familial mustardy bite, they are cooling in nature. They help to stimulate the appetite, facilitate digestion (especially of fats), and are anti-microbial. They help resolve mucus (you practically feel your sinuses open with a single bite), and aid in liver detoxification (listen up: hang-over help!). Moreover, they contain vitamin C, potassium, numerous trace minerals, and fiber to boot.
I will refer to the previous tutorial on Cooking with Trash, as radish greens are another special ingredient that tends to get tossed. Wash them well, give them a rough chop, and use them anywhere you would other Brassica greens like cabbage and kale: added to soups; as the base of a spicy pesto; wilted in grain salads or pasta dishes; as a peppery hit to your favorite stir-fry; marinated in a unique raw greens salad; braised and placed over crunchy bruschetta for a show-stopping appetizer. (If you attempt any of these suggestions, please share the results in the Comments portion of this post.)
Radishes are available at farmers’ markets year-round, but are best in the cooler months of fall and spring, when their peppery bite tends to mellow. They come in a range of shapes and colors; each variety boasts a slightly different texture and level of spice. Black, red, purple, pale green, magenta with a white hat – I love them all. Regardless of which variety you find, the important thing is ensuring your purchase is fresh. Radishes should have vibrant greens, exhibiting no signs of wilting, yellowing, or rotting. The radishes should be crisp, never limp, shriveling, or spongy. Avoid radishes that have been cut or split. Wrap radishes (with their greens attached) in paper towels, and store in a sealed plastic bag or glass container; refrigerate for up to five days, though their sweetness will continue to wane after harvest.
The medicinal properties of SEAWEED ( NORI is one variety of dried seaweed), algae, and microalgae are too many to mention here (entire books have been written on this subject). I will say, however, that including sea vegetables in one’s diet, even if only once a week, is a small change that will have a huge impact. Briefly, some of the balancing actions of seaweed include reducing cholesterol, removing metallic and radioactive elements (great to have before and after X-rays or other radiation treatment), detoxifying (seaweed chelates with toxins and discharges them with normal body waste), strengthening digestion, softening tumors or other hard masses, reducing edema, counteracting obesity and enhancing the immune system. Seaweed is higher in vitamins and minerals than any other class of food! It is a significant source of calcium, iodine, phosphorus, sodium and iron, and contains these elements in proportions similar to human blood. It is also extremely rich in protein and vitamins A, B, C and E. There are hundreds of sea vegetables available, but just make sure to purchase those that are wild-crafted from clean coastal areas.
PINE NUTS are warming in nature. They are lubricating, and as such are especially useful in alleviating dry conditions like coughs and constipation. In fact, they are so useful in moistening the intestines, unblocking bowels, and dispelling wind, they are a prime ingredient in some Chinese herbal prescriptions. However, their high fat content should be considered – eating them excess will lead to imbalances. They are quite high in protein (over 14%) and are significant sources of B vitamins, vitamin A, magnesium, and most notably, the trace mineral manganese (an important cofactor in many of the body’s enzymatic processes). Pine nuts, in moderation, could be especially helpful in maintaining normal blood glucose levels.
Purchase pine nuts from the bulk section of a health-food store with high turnover. They should appear ivory and plump. A rancid nut is not always easy to spot, but is quite easy to smell – sniff before you buy. Purchase in small quantities and store pine nuts in the refrigerator until ready to use.
So, you see, radishes topped with nori-salt and pine nut puree is a winning snack option. It is a case in which opposites complement each other perfectly. The rich pine nuts balance the cooling properties of the radish and provide the fat necessary to keep blood sugar steady. The radish and seaweed, in turn, facilitate digestion of the fatty nuts, which have so much to offer nutritionally. The pine nut puree, with its creaminess, acidity (thanks to the lemon), and subtle sweetness, is an excellent foil for the crisp texture and peppery flavor of radishes. And though this combination may yield a mere morsel for the belly, the round ruby taproots, fluffy white puree, and ebony specks of nori make it a feast for the eyes.
R ADISHES WITH PINE NUT PUREE & NORI-SALT
MAKES APPROXIMATELY 1 ½ CUPS PUREE
the freshest, most stunning radishes you can find
1 cup raw pine nuts, soaked for at least 2 hours in filtered water 1 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or more to taste ½ teaspoon sea salt 5-6 tablespoons filtered water
1 sheet organic, raw Nori (see sources) 2 teaspoons coarse sea salt, such as Maldon
Scrub the radishes with a damp towel, especially where the greens sprout; give the greens a quick rinse. Pinch off the tiny root at the bottom, if you wish. If you would like to make the greens perk up a bit, you can fill a basin with ice water and soak the radishes for a minute or two; drain and dry on a clean towel before proceeding with the recipe. Arrange the radishes on a platter and set aside.
Drain the soaked pine nuts. Place the pine nuts, lemon juice, salt, and water in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the pine nuts are the consistency of sour cream (this can take a couple of minutes). Add more water if necessary, put do not thin the mixture too much or it will properly coat the radishes. Refrigerate pine nut puree for up to 5 days in a sealed container.
Place nori in a spice grinder (a.k.a., repurposed coffee grinder) and pulse until broken into tiny flakes. Add salt and pulse just until combined (I prefer that the salt retain some of its coarse texture).
Sprinkle radishes with nori-salt and serve with a bowl of pine nut puree for dipping. Save the greens for another use.