#CoronaCooking: Radishes Last Forever

My CSA farm offers shares for the winter season, consisting of lots of squash and root vegetables, and also some spinach and kale and even a bit of lettuce. The trick is, though, that you usually only pick up your vegetables every two or three weeks, and you get a TON. Finding a place to put them is always a bit of a challenge, and even more so today, the last pickup for the year, when we were given even more stuff than usual. Luckily, what we got generally stores very well.

One of the crops that lasts a surprisingly long time is radishes, I've discovered. Today I realized I had two kinds of radishes that needed to be used up: a couple of daikon radishes—the long, pale, thick roots that are used in all manner of Asian cooking, from Indian to Japanese and many other places between—and about three pounds of watermelon and black radishes. The latter are slightly smaller than a baseball, with smooth sins; watermelon radishes are pale green with some pink, and when you cut them you find a pale white and magenta interior, while the black radishes have a lovely purple black skin and a creamy white flesh.

Despite having been ignored in my vegetable drawers for.... weeks, let's say (maybe longer), they were in perfect condition. So I got to work.

Braised Daikon with Shiitake Mushrooms and Ground Pork

Serves 4

This recipe is adapted from one of my favorite blogs, The Woks of Life, but with many changes: the original recipe uses Chinese turnip, not daikon, and fresh shiitakes, and I modified the method a little bit... Yeah, so totally different recipe, but "inspired by" is probably fair. 

1.5 lbs daikon radish, peeled, cut lengthwise in half, and each half cut into 1/2" thick slices
4 scallions, chopped and separated into white and green parts
1 TB minced ginger
3 minced garlic cloves
8 large fresh shiitake mushrooms, cut into quarters, OR 8-10 dried shiitake mushrooms, reconsistuted in hot water for at least 30 minutes, squeezed of excess water, and cut into quarters
1 TB Chinese cooking wine or sherry (optional)
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp dark soy sauce (if you don't have this on hand, use extra light soy sauce)
1 TB light soy sauce
1 TB oyster sauce
1/2 tsp sugar
2 cups water
1.5 TB cornstarch mixed with 3 TB cold water
2 TB vegetable oil
1 star anise and 1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, OR 1/2 tsp Chinese five spice powder
12 oz ground pork

1. Prepare the vegetables and aromatics. Mix together the sauce ingredients in a small bowl (cooking wine, salt, soy sauces, oyster sauce, sugar). Make cornstarch slurry.

2. In a wok or large sauté pan, heat the vegetable oil over medium high heat. Add the star anise and peppercorns, if using. When aromatic, add the ginger, garlic, and white parts of the scallions. Sauté for 30 seconds and then add ground pork, breaking up with a spoon. Sauté the pork until it starts getting brown.

3. Add daikon and mix thoroughly. Add shiitakes and mix. Add sauce and mix. Add water. Cover pan and let cook for 15 minutes or so, until daikon is translucent and tender. Stir every five minutes or so; if the pan dries up, add more water. When the daikon is tender, remix the cornstarch slurry and add it to the pan. Let the mixture come up to a boil, stirring well, until the sauce is thickened and glossy.

4. Serve over steamed rice, garnished with the chopped green scallions.

Kkakdugi (Cubed Korean Kimchi)

Makes a lot

The original recipe calls for daikon radish, but I thought it would be pretty and tasty with the watermelon and black radishes I had around. Plus I had a lot of them. Feel free to halve the recipe if you would like. This is normally served as a side dish or condiment as part of a Korean meal. I would probably be thrilled with a lunch of steamed rice topped with a fried egg and a little of this pickle on the side. 

3 lbs watermelon, black, or daikon radish, cut into 1" cubes
2.5 TB coarse sea salt or kosher salt (don't use iodized salt)
5 TB Korean red chili powder (gochugaru)
1 TB fish sauce
2 TB dried shrimp, minced (TOTALLY optional; add an extra TB fish sauce instead)
1.5 TB minced garlic
1 tsp minced ginger
1.5 TB sugar
3-4 scallions cut into 1" lengths

1. Place cubed radish in a large bowl and sprinkle with salt. Toss well, then allow to sit for about 45 minutes. The salting with result in a fair amount of water at the bottom of the bowl; drain radish in a colander and reserve.

2. In another large bowl, mix together chili powder, fish sauce, dried shrimp if using, garlic, ginger, and sugar. The result will be a dryish paste. Add the radish and scallions. Mix everything together with your hands (use gloves if you have them). Mix some more. Mix like you've never mixed before.

3. Pack the mixture into an extremely clean quart sized mason jar. Like, really press it down. Pack it all in. Cover jar, and let sit on the counter for a couple of days. Once or twice a day, open the jars to let the built up gases from the fermentation process out—this is essentially burping your kimchi baby. You'll see more liquid come out of the radishes, and combine with the spice mixture, and the whole thing will ferment slightly until the flavors are beautifully melded and exceptionally umami-ish.

4. Once it starts smelling and tasting super delicious to you, it's ready. It will keep in the jar, refrigerated, indefinitely, getting stronger flavored as time goes on. Maybe consume it within a couple of weeks, though.