The Saturday Morning Market in St. Petersburg is a trek from our place in the 'burbs of north Hillsborough, but the trip is worth it every time. We hit up the first coffee stand we see and mosey around the rest of the market in search of this morning's pastry.
We head to my favorite tent, the big one for Worden Farm. Their tables are always stacked high with fresh organic produce, but today, we're late. They're out of that deeply green savoy cabbage I can never get my hands on and the line stretches long and loops several times around like a garden snake. I hustle over to the greens and fill my basket with arugula, kale, and Brussels sprouts. I grab a bunch of perky sunflowers and start to slow down near the kohlrabi, propped up like purple roses, when I see the radishes. The French breakfast ones with their elegant, long shape and pink and white tones.
Chef and cookbook author Deborah Madison, a woman who knows her vegetables with a veracity I aspire to, says people pick up radishes as soon as they see them because they're so pretty. And yet they often end up forgotten in a crisper drawer, especially bad for these radishes, which tend to spoil more quickly than other varieties.
The French do radishes right. The milder, delicate French breakfast radishes are perfect served simply with butter, salt and bread. Round out this snack with a bottle of rose, cheese and prosciutto, and you've got a feast for a leisurely afternoon in the spring. It's unclear where the "breakfast" part came into the name for this variety; I like them for the afternoon.
I'd braised the more common globe-shaped red radishes with bacon, but as we made our way from the market to Mazzaro's Italian Market (part two of our Saturday mornings across the bay) I wondered how I could best serve up these blushing ones.
We picked up a couple bottles of wine. Rose, of course, because it's spring. Back home, I arranged everything on the dinner table. Something sort-of French, sort-of Italian was coming together, all in shades of pink and dusty rose.
French breakfast radishes are more delicate and mild than other varieties, and I decided to serve them as the French do. Simply. After a bit of prep work suddenly we had a feast perfect for a leisurely afternoon on these warmer days. The only thing that could have made this snack better is to take it al fresco. Make this soon and make it a picnic.
Ileana Morales is a writer who cooks in a small apartment kitchen in Tampa with boyfriend Danny Valentine, an education reporter for the Tampa Bay Times. For more of their kitchen adventures, visit Ileana's blog, alittlesaffron.com. She can be reached at [email protected]