Saturday, December 17, 2011

Radish Green Soup

One of the great things about shopping at the farmers market is I can ask the farmers and their helpers how they cook their produce.

Some growers are one-note cooks. "Chop it up and stir it into rice," says one about pretty much everything he sells. "Toss it in olive oil and roast it in the oven," says another about his produce. Both great ideas, but they get a little boring after a while.

I keep asking though, because on occasion I get a gem of a recipe. Like this radish-top soup that I learned about at the Flora Bella stand.

I had selected a bunch of black radishes for their roots, which are turnip-sized with a radish-y zest more potent than the small red radishes but less eye-watering than horseradish. I like to peel them and add them to dishes of roasted root vegetables. As I was paying for them, I thought to ask if their leaves were edible too.

I never thought of eating radish leaves, but I've since learned that the leaves of all radishes, even the little red ones, are good eating. They are a little hairy, but cooking and puréeing them breaks them down to a smooth consistency.

When the woman working the stall gave me this soup recipe (her husband's favorite), I decided I needed a second bunch in order to make a decent amount. She dug through the pile for one with excellent leaves, and I came home to give it a try.

Larry was a little dubious when I put the green goop in his bowl, but he really enjoyed it. As did I. It's creamy and light, yet with a radishy tang. I didn't think it would be filling - no beans or potatoes - but it actually sticks to the ribs. And in smaller bowlfuls it could be an excellent appetizer soup. It would certainly intrigue your guests while giving them lots of nutrition.

You can make the soup with the tops of any radishes, including the red ones. If you don't have enough greens, you could pad it with mustard greens, chard or spinach.

And you can substitute olive oil for the butter to make this a creamy vegan soup.

Radish Green Soup
1 bulb fennel
3/4 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tbsp butter
greens from 2 bunches of black radish (1 lb total greens)
2 cups vegetable stock

Cut the leaves and stems off the fennel and discard. Cut the bulb in half and cut off the tough bottom and core - discard these too. Chop the remaining segments into large pieces.

Warm the olive oil and butter in a saucepan and sauté the fennel, onion and garlic until softened.

Wash the radish greens and cut off the tough bottoms which are just stem. Chop the leaves and add to the pan along with the vegetable stock. Cook, covered, until the greens are very soft.

Purée in the blender.

Serve hot.

Serves 2-3.

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