Liven up your salad with some radishes |

Liven up your salad with some radishes

Chef Heather Hunsaker

Spring is here and it is the perfect time to rediscover ruby-red radishes. Radishes, although available year round, are fresh and in season from April through October. Along with cabbage and cauliflower, radishes are a member of the Brassica family. Radishes mature very quickly and only take three to four weeks from planting to harvesting. Radishes are a root vegetable with a crisp texture and slightly peppery flavor. Spring radishes are much milder than late summer radishes which tend to have a sharper bite.

The most popular radishes are small red skinned, turnip shaped vegetables, which are sometimes called Cherry Belle. However, radishes come in many different shapes and sizes. Other common varieties of radishes include Black Radishes, Daikon Radishes, Watermelon Radishes, and of course Horseradish.

Radishes are an extremely low fat, low calorie food. They are cholesterol free and are a great source of Vitamin C and folic acid.

When purchasing radishes, choose radishes that are firm with the leaves still attached. Avoid radishes with cracks and bruises or wilted leaves, as this is a sign of mealy radishes. Once home, remove the green tops and store radishes in a plastic bag in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator. If stored properly, radishes should keep for about one week. However, if radishes become slightly soft after a few days, crisp them by placing them in a bowl of ice water for one hour before serving.

Both the radish root and green leaves can be consumed. The greens have a mild flavor and can be wilted like other leafy greens, added to soups or eaten raw in salads. The radish roots can be eaten raw as a snack or added to salads, sandwiches, slaws, or wraps for a nice crunch. Radish roots can also be cooked or braised with other vegetables for a nice earthy element.

Radishes are an inexpensive grocery store find. A bunch usually only costs fifty cents to a dollar and can help stretch a salad or slaw. This spring chicken and pasta salad is filled with radishes and other flavorful, crunchy, low cost vegetables, making this a great $10 dinner.

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Spring Chicken and Pasta Salad

Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 30 minutes Serves 6

6 large eggs

1 (16 ounce package) bow tie pasta

1 pound chicken tenders

1 large cucumber, sliced

1 bunch radishes, trimmed and sliced

2 large carrots, peeled and sliced

1/2 medium red onion, chopped

1 cup Italian-style salad dressing

4 leaves romaine lettuce, thinly sliced (optional, for serving)

salt and pepper, to taste

Hard boil the eggs by placing them into a saucepan in a single layer. Fill with water to cover the eggs by 1 inch. Cover the saucepan and bring the water to a boil over high heat. Once the water is boiling, remove from the heat and let the eggs stand in the hot water for 12-15 minutes. Pour out the hot water, then cool the eggs under cold running water in the sink. Peel once cold.

Fill a large pot with lightly salted water and bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Once the water is boiling, stir in the bow tie pasta and return to a boil. Cook the pasta uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the pasta has cooked through, but is still firm to the bite, about 12 minutes. Drain well in a colander set in the sink, and rinse with cold water.

Meanwhile, heat a non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Add chicken, seasoned with salt and pepper, and cook until no longer pink inside, about 4 minutes per side. Remove the tenders from the pan, and set aside to cool.

Cut the tenders into bite-size pieces. Slice the eggs. Combine the cooked pasta, chicken, eggs, cucumber, radishes, carrots, and red onion in a salad bowl, and pour the Italian dressing over. Toss lightly to mix. Serve as is or serve on top a bed of romaine lettuce.

Note: Pasta salad can be served at room temperature or chilled.

• Chef Heather Hunsaker attended and graduated from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, but has been developing family friendly meals since she was nine years old in her mother’s kitchen. She currently serves as a writer and recipe developer for meal planning site