While winter holidays and parties are wonderful times to share food and drink with family and friends, they are also often a challenge to the better angels of our diet. But just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you can’t sit down to a simple, satisfying salad. And the perfect winter salad is made with crunchy, sweet winter radishes.With their high water content, radishes are a dieter’s delight, with only about 20 calories per cup. But in that serving is about 30% of your daily vitamin C, plenty of fiber, plus healthy amounts of folic acid, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc to nourish your body and hydrate your skin. In Ayurvedic healing practices, radishes are said to have cleansing effects, helping break down and eliminate toxins and cancer-promoting free radicals in the body. The Black Spanish Radish in particular is said to boost the immune system, and may ward off those winter colds and flu.
All that health and nutrition comes in beautiful radish packages – from classic white (daikon), to basic black (Spanish black), to bright green (greenheart), to lovely lavender (Korean purple), to brilliant fuschia (roseheart, beauty heart, or watermelon radish). If you can’t find these at your regular grocery store, try a winter farmers market.
Radishes are quick and easy to prepare. Just wash, peel, and grate in a food processor, or with a mandolin. Then all you need to do is pile the grated radish in a bowl, make a light dressing, toss, and enjoy the festive, confetti-like, guilt-free confection.
Winter Radish Salad
This salad is based on the classic Thai green papaya salad, som tam. You can make it with only winter radishes, or with a combination of whatever winter root vegetables you have, from carrots to turnips to burdock. Serves 4 as a side dish.
4 medium sized winter radishes, or a combination of winter radishes and other root vegetables
1 red chili, sliced, seeds removed (reduce or omit, to taste)
1/2 cup roasted peanuts or cashews, crushed, for garnish
fresh cilantro or parsley for garnish
DRESSING1/2 tsp. shrimp paste, or substitute 1 Tbsp. fish sauce or soy sauce
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 Tbsp. fish sauce or soy sauce
3 Tbsp. lime juice
1 Tbsp. honey, or to taste
1/4 tsp. Thai hot pepper, or to taste
- Whisk all dressing ingredients together in a small bowl. Make sure shrimp paste and honey dissolve. Taste, and add more honey or hot pepper to taste. Set aside.
- Peel the root vegetables, and then grate with a food processor, box grater, or mandolin. Place in a large bowl.
- Taste-test, and add a little more honey or soy sauce, or Thai hot pepper. If you think it’s too sweet or salty, add more lime juice. Heap in a serving bowl, and top with the crushed nuts and a sprinkling of fresh parsley or cilantro.