I forget where I first heard of radishes on toast. It may have come from a children’s book, the old fashioned kind where heroic children who say things like “golly” and “shant” cheerfully play in gardens and never miss tea. It may have been from the cookbooks that I rented from the library on a weekly basis, before I ever considered cooking would be a good way to eat all this delicious food. It may have been later, on the internet, where I was exposed for the first time to food writing that treated food as more than a list of components, but a language that we speak. What I do know is that I was in my 20s the first time I ate a radish. And the first time I ate it was on toast.
I had a crush on radishes on toast for a long time before I ever tried one. It seemed intensely elegant, a fancy way that I could eat two of my favorite things, bread and butter, to my heart’s content. It helped that I couldn’t identify exactly what a radish was, besides that it was a vegetable. There are sillier things to crush on, an unknown vegetable on bread, but not many.
When I did try this radish on toast I was a college senior, living with friends in off-campus housing. I had started shopping at our local co-op, and one day picked up radishes, and then a baguette. At home I tore a corner off the baguette, slathered it with butter, and topped with sliced radishes. I soon learned to sprinkle flakey salt on top, and have been eating radishes on toast whenever I can find good baguettes ever since.
Earlier this week Aaron and I went to an excellent local bakery and I picked up a baguette on a whim. I had never had theirs before, but once we were home and had torn off a corner I was smitten. I knew it was time to slice radishes and swipe butter. And so today in celebration of good bread and lovely weather, I offer three variations of radishes on toast- traditional, tweaked, and twisted. They’re all delicious, and all perfectly suited for spring cocktails and starting dinner outside.
Radishes on Toast, Three Ways
The quantity of components depend on how many pieces of toast you’d like, how comfortable you are with fat, and how heavily you add your radishes. The process is the same for each toast- Slice the baguette. Slather on the spread. Top with radishes and a flaked salt, like Maldon.
A tradition for a reason. It’s creamy and smooth, with just the right amount of crunch. The peppery bite of the radishes come through most here, making it the ideal radish toast for the radish lover.
butter, unsalted and room temperature
Elegant and playful, the radish greens give a vegetal edge to the the creamy butter, while the shallots accentuate the bite of the radish.
butter, compound of radish leaves and shallots (recipe below)
The pickled radishes here have that tart, puckering taste of all good pickles, an edge that is tamed by the smooth, nutty-sweet avocado.
radishes, pickled (recipe below)
Radish Leaf and Shallot Compound Butter
The process is quite easy for this. Feel free to adjust proportions as you like- the more things stuffed into the butter, the more intense the flavor, the less things, the smoother the texture.
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 handful clean radish leaves, finely chopped
1/2 shallot, minced
In a small bowl mix the butter with the radish leaves and shallot until well combined. Wrap in plastic and roll into a log, and refrigerate or freeze until you are ready to use. Be sure to bring to room temperature before trying to spread.
I chose to make a small amount of pickled radishes because pickled radishes, unlike many other quick pickles, have a very short shelf life. The great advantage to pickled radishes is because they’re so thin they pickle very quickly.
4 radishes, cleaned and thinly sliced
1 cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
Place the radishes into a clean jar. Boil together the vinegar, salt, sugar, and spices. Pour the vinegar mixture over the radishes and let cool. The pickles can be eaten after hanging out in vinegar for an hour, and will keep in the refrigerator for about 5 days.