We originally thought to sidle into spring with a nothing-says-seasonal-like-this recipe for pickled ramps. Last year's batch, pickled last May, provided contented cocktail munching all winter long, but the jar finally dwindled down to one sad little pickle just last month. The only cure for our despair was the realization that in just a few short weeks we could begin the cycle anew.
But "mann tracht und gott lacht" as we like to say, and we arrived at the farmer's market on Saturday bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and completely unprepared to find that ramps had already come and gone, both for the day, and, the farmer told us apologetically, probably for the season.
With the full swing of East Coast spring still a week or two away and a pretty serious hankering for something pickled, we eyed our options--potatoes? Out of the question. Apples? Hardly. Asparagus? Perhaps, but why bother? And then we spied this:
And we had a pretty good feeling about. Green radishes!?!?! From what we could deduce in our swift research, these fat, parsnip-looking behemoths (10 inches, oh my!) are de rigeur in Chinese culinary circles, prized for their sweet, mild flavor. We scooped them up, hustled them home, and were stunned to slice into this:
So spring-like and lovely, no? And though we wasted no time in slicing up these verdant roots for delicious, vaguely Chinese pickling (ahem, note rice wine vinegar and gingerroot in the recipe below), they are so gently flavored that they wouldn't be amiss shredded in something more Southeast Asian-y, like a green papaya-inspired slaw, which is what we will be doing with next weekend's market booty. Unless, of course, those ramps turn up after all.
PICKLED GREEN RADISHES
Provides about 1 tightly packed pint
1 1/2 pounds green radishes or other radishes of one's choosing, trimmed and peeled
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 inches gingerroot, peeled and sliced into paper-thin rounds
1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seed
4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more for those of fiery constitution
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
Slice the radishes lengthwise into quarters; slice each quarter crosswise 1/4-inch thick. Place them in a large bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon salt. Let radishes stand one hour at room temperature, then tip any excess water out of the bowl (do not rinse the radishes). Add the ginger, coriander, garlic, and pepper flakes.
Pour the vinegar into a small bowl and whisk in 1/2 tablespoon salt and the sugar until both have dissolved. Pour the liquid over the radish mixture; toss gently to combine. Pack the whole thing into a pretty jar, cover tightly, and transfer to one's icebox to pickle for as long as one can stand (we find the flavor begins to shine after four hours and it dazzles after twelve). If one is able to resist eating them all in one go, they will last, chilled, in an airtight container for two to three weeks.