Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Green Kitchen: Baked Radish Chips

Green Kitchen is a bi-weekly column about nutritious, inexpensive, and ethical food and cooking. It's penned by the lovely Jaime Green.

There are recipes that are beautiful, suitable for serving to guests. There are recipes that are fast, in your mouth 30 minutes after your first slice of the knife. There are recipes that serve more than one person, or don't heat up your kitchen in the middle of summer, or are full meals all at once.

Then there are recipes that take an hour in the oven, make enough for a one-person snack, and emerge from their heat-spewing cooking time totally hideous, and completely delicious.

This is one of those recipes.

The hour to cook one person's snack might seem a little un-green, and maybe it is, but let's compare it to the manufacture, packaging, and transport of a commercially-produced and processed snack. When the ingredients are a local veggie, oil, and salt, we're not doing too bad.

This is also one of those happy recipes that transforms an iffy vegetable into something delicious. Heidi Swansson's Brussels sprouts is a similar case. This time the vegetable in question is the radish.

Lots of people love radishes, but they've never done much for me. At once flavorless and with too much of a peppery bite, I leave them untouched in my salads... and don't really encounter them anywhere else. But I'd fallen into a greenmarket rut, buying the same vegetables I've been buying for years, and cooking them the same ways. I wanted to try something new, and still haven't worked up the courage for stinging nettles. The radishes were beautiful, though – a fresh, bold, bright magenta – and just one dollar for a hefty bunch. Sold.

(Also, did you know that radishes have, like, no calories in them? Well, not exactly, but we’re talking one or two calories per radish. That’s insane. I did not know this until I did the tally for this recipe. But that is major extra points for this, in my book.)

I hit the internet looking for recipes, hoping some cooking would soften or alter the radishy bite I'm none too fond of. My quest came to an abrupt halt when I read these beautiful words: radish chips. Of course! Just like sweet potatoes, kale, and I'm sure even more veggies, baking them with a little oil and salt would yield a crunchy, addictive snack. Or so the internet promised.

It took a few tries to get things right – some recipes called for microwaving the sliced radishes before baking, which just added time and hot radish-handling; one time I had to leave way before they were ready, so though tasty the results were definitely not chips – but in the end, the simplest preparation worked. Sliced radishes, a little oil, salt, and plenty of time in a not-too-hot oven.

The result is absolutely delicious – buttery, yet light, with the radishy bite mellowed out into a vegetable richness – but they are not a glamour food. The chips shrink and shrivel, and some end up on the brown side of golden, but even the nearly-burned chips (I could not figure out how to get them all to be perfectly done at the same time) are super tasty. One baking sheet's worth of raw radishes yields a small bowlful, a snack you can practically devour on the walk from the oven to the table if you're not careful. I wasn't sure about sharing such a frankly ugly creation, but any time you can turn a difficult veggie into an addictive little snack, something good is going on.

This recipe can also be easily doubled, as long as you have two baking sheets. Keep your oven racks as close to the middle of the oven as possible, and switch the sheets every 20 minutes.

Radish Chips
Serves one.

5-6 radishes
1 t olive oil
Salt to to taste (kosher or sea varieties would be best)

1) Pre-heat oven to 300F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

2) Slice radishes thinly and evenly. Use a mandolin for best results (and saved time & wrist pain).

3) Pour olive oil into a mixing bowl. Add radish slices and mix until they’re evenly coated. Sprinkle with some salt. Mix again.

4) Arrange radish slices in a single layer on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with more salt if that’s your thing. (It is mine.)

5) Bake 60-75 minutes, checking every so often, and more frequently once you get near the one-hour mark. Chips are done when they’re dried and crispy, but will still be delicious if eaten before then.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, Protein, and Price Per Serving
51 calories, 5g fat, 1g fiber, .5g protein, $0.58

6 radishes: 9 calories, 0g fat, 1g fiber, .5g protein, $0.50
1 t olive oil: 42 calories, 5g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.04
salt: negligible calories, fat, fiber, protein, $0.04
TOTAL: 51 calories, 5g fat, 1g fiber, .5g protein, $0.58

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