Tuesday, July 12, 2011
CUCUMBER-RADISH SALAD WITH FETA VINAIGRETTE
The problem with my newfound interest in radishes is that when you buy radishes, you get a lot. Oh, sure, they look so innocent, sitting there all cute and pink in small, tight, manageable bunches, but unless you like popping them whole into your mouth (and I’m not there yet), most recipes involve thinly slicing them, and you can get a surprising number of thin slices out of just one radish. (I’d like to try cooking radishes, which often calls for them to be whole or halved instead of sliced—I’ve heard they’re incredible roasted, but my oven is still defunct, so that will have to wait.) And it’s possible that they multiply in the crisper drawer like rabbits when no one’s looking. Neither of the radish recipes I’ve posted so far has used an entire bunch of radishes, so I’ve been burdened with many extras. While hunting down ways to use them that seem palatable to our household of radish newbies, I found this one at Kalyn’s Kitchen, bookmarked it because it was pretty and it involved feta (one of my latest obsessions), and decided to try it one day when I realized I had spare radishes, cucumbers, feta, and buttermilk all waiting around serendipitously in the fridge.
Cucumbers and radishes seem to be paired together fairly often (maybe because they’re both so refreshingly crunchy, maybe because the mild coolness of the cucumbers balances out the peppery bite of the radishes, or maybe just because hot pink and green are a great color combination)—in fact, I’ve got a totally different cucumber-radish salad bookmarked that is apparently based on a traditional Russian recipe—but I’d never tried them in tandem. I could tell A was skeptical, and maybe I was too, because I only made a half-recipe, not wanting to be stuck with leftovers if we didn’t like it. But I like all the ingredients here, and there are few surprises when you put them all together. Cucumbers and radishes and feta: what’s not to like? The creamy feta vinaigrette, enhanced by a small quantity of tangy buttermilk (although I think you could use plain yogurt instead if you don’t have buttermilk on hand), is not only a great foil to the crunchy salad but extremely tasty—it’s based on a recipe by David Lebovitz intended for a green salad, and I’d definitely eat it that way as an alternative to my usual lemon-olive oil dressing. I used dried oregano instead of fresh thyme (which I’d neglected to buy), on the theory that feta and oregano belong to the same Greek-food family—and oregano is about the only dried herb that I think tastes good in its own right. Afterwards, I looked at Lebovitz’s recipe and realized that the original version (from Joy of Cooking) actually did call for oregano, so I guess I knew what I was doing.
Anyway, long story short, we both enjoyed this salad. Maybe it was the oregano, but we thought it would make a great side dish for a Mediterranean meal like chicken gyros. (We just had it with zucchini fritters.) Radishes, you keep on surprising me!
4 small Persian cucumbers (or other small cucumbers without large seeds)
10–12 large radishes
¾ cup crumbled feta cheese, divided
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano or ½ teaspoon dried oregano (or thyme if you prefer)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons buttermilk (or plain yogurt)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Cut the ends off the cucumbers; slice the cucumbers in half lengthwise and then into half-moon slices about ¼ inch thick. Wash radishes and trim off ends, then slice the radishes in half lengthwise and into half-moon slices just slightly thinner than the cucumbers (I used French breakfast radishes, which are very long and narrow, so I just sliced them). Put cucumbers and radishes into a large salad bowl.
2. To make the dressing, put ½ cup crumbled feta into a small bowl. Add oregano and red wine vinegar and mash with a fork to your desired degree of smoothness. Stir in olive oil and buttermilk, plus salt and pepper to taste (it probably won’t need much salt, thanks to the salty feta).
3. Stir the dressing into the bowl with the cucumbers and radishes. Season to taste with salt (it may not need any more) and pepper. Sprinkle with the extra ¼ cup crumbled feta.
Time: 15 minutes
Leftover potential: Untested by me; the original recipe says that “this will keep in the fridge for a day or two, but it's better freshly made.”