radish panzanella

Telling you I like panzanella is a little like telling you my teenage self liked pizza. I don’t like panzanella; I want to eat it every day. In the same way I grew up buying Tombstone and Jack’s and, let’s be honest, eating any pizza anyone would give me, now I want panzanella, and I want it all the time. Really, the jump from pizza addict to panzanella evangelist isn’t a crazy one. The most traditional versions of panzanella are practically pizza, deconstructed: bread, tomatoes, basil, mozzarella cheese. But lately, my panzanella love has pushed me to new combinations of ingredients, ones far stretched from anything resembling a pizza slice. And while sure, I might be biased, I have to say, I think a radish panzanella like this one could make a zealot out of anyone.

radish panzanella

This salad starts with radishes—and saying radishes are beautiful is kind of like saying I like panzanella. Every time I bring home a bunch of these bright, red roots, I feel a little like a proud parent. I want to take their picture or paint them on a print. From those firm root bodies with their knockout color to those wispy, leafy stems that taste a little like pepper and a lot like grass, radishes are something else. Yet as show-stopping as they look at the market, in kitchens, radishes tend to take supporting roles: sliced thinly into leafy salads or turned quickly into bright taco slaws.

radish panzanella

Radishes are, in other words, that talented friend who keeps interviewing and being passed over for the more obvious choices like kale Ivy League grads. Radishes are the flattering outfits forgotten in the closet until you clean things out and consider them anew. Radishes are, I’m not kidding, pretty similar to most of us—gifted in specific ways that not everyone sees and maybe not everyone is supposed to see, and so are often labeled and placed under assumptions and ignored.

radish panzanella

So when a person comes along who sees us, who stops long enough to pause and consider and really see, all kinds of joy erupts. When someone gives the gift of listening long enough to understand, asking questions thoughtfully and with interest, most of us blossom in response. When I think about this, it makes me want to hold my tongue longer and listen better. It makes me want to thank Tim for doing this for me better than anyone else I’ve ever known.

Also, it moves me further toward the radish, the humble root vegetable for which other cultures have declared holidays and designed sculptures to honor.

radish panzanella
radish panzanella

So behold, in this panzanella, proof of radish charm:

Thin, white, beautifully red-bordered rounds.
A crunch as strong as any water chestnut.
Diced greens that add color contrast and a slight pepper taste.

Combined with other players like tomato, onion, parsley, lemon juice, olive oil, and chunks of toasted bread, the radish becomes more than a thing you’re trying to notice.

radish panzanella

It becomes one you don’t want to miss.




Radish Panzanella
Makes four cups; serves three to four

For the bread in this salad, we chose a hearty loaf from local bakery Twin Forks Farm, which uses ancient grains and a two- to three-day ferment. But really any hearty, crusty bread would do. And feel free to make this salad ahead of serving time, by the way—the longer it sits, the more the flavors meld.

Ingredients:
10 radishes, sliced thinly
1/2 cup radish greens, chopped
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1 tomato, diced
1 cup of diced onion
2 tablespoons of fresh-squeezed lemon juice (from about one lemon)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large pieces crusty bread, toasted and cubed

Directions:
In a medium to large bowl, combine all ingredients and toss well. Taste, and adjust oil, lemon juice or salt as you like.

Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

This Post Has 18 Comments

  1. Jacqui

    I love radishes! I tried growing them this year and failed miserably, even though they’re supposed to be super easy to grow. But yes — the crunch, the peppery kick, the color. Love them all. Love this post, and the simplicity of this recipe.

  2. Lindsey | The Next Course

    Lovely! I love every bit of this post–the words, the photos, the recipe, the ode to radishes–it’s just perfect.

    I would like to try this radish version of panzanella, but I have SO MANY cucumbers at home that I can’t reasonably buy radishes to replace cucumbers in a panzanella… a silly problem to have, I’ll admit… Maybe next year I will grow radishes instead of cucumbers :-)

  3. Marie @ Little Kitchie

    I looove radishes so much – this wonderful French restaurant we go to serves the most gorgeous radishes at the beginning of the meal, like a Tex-Mex place would put out chips and salsa. The. Best. I know I would love this meal – cannot wait to try it!

  4. felicia | Dish by Dish

    Shanna, I’m guilty as charged. I’ve walked pass radishes a gazillion times, admiring their bright pinkish-red hue, but turning away the moment I imagine their spicy, almost-harsh taste in my mouth. I’ve made mental notes (almost every time I glance at a recipe which includes radish) to one day use them, but somehow, when it’s time to pick up vegetables, radishes are those who I always pass on.

    Ok, resolution for this year (i make resolutions anytime, not just New Year’s). Before the year draws to a big-bang end, I will make sometime with radishes. I promise you – prejudices and narrow-mindedness aside. And then, at that time, I will let you know how it goes.

    xoxo,
    F.

  5. Stacy

    Oh, I love panzanella as well! And radishes – too oft forgotten, indeed. Have you tried the tomato, tofu + peanut butter panzanella from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day? It’s pretty fantastic, if you want to add that one to your list – I have this radish rendition on mine now! (:

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