Go, Team Radish!

Way back in February, my food writing class took a field trip to Nina Gallant‘s food photography studio in Brighton. We learned all about how to make food look pretty (without using anything weird or inedible), and we got to see Nina and food stylist Meredith in action.  We even got to try out some of the tricks we learned using Nina’s vast collection of props, backdrops, and fabrics.  It was awesome.

Turn around, Nina. You're too pretty to have your back to the camera!

That’s Nina in the flowered shirt. I was apparently too enthralled by what she was saying to actually get a good photo of her from the front!

From Nina we learned the best place to buy props (thrift store, Brimfield antiques fair, and Target), the best way to light food (from behind and to the side), and a little about composition. Meredith showed us some food styling tricks and tools. Oh..and contrary to popular opinion, pros like Nina and Meredith don’t use anything weird to make their photos beautiful. Unless you count mashed potatoes. Sometimes they’ll put a layer of mashed potatoes in the bottom of a bowl to prop up the “real” food.  I’m not sure I’d want to eat something that’s been propped up by mashed potatoes, but it doesn’t freak me out, either.

After a while, Nina set us loose. We were pointed toward a pile of veggies and a closet full of props. Vivian and I choose radishes. Why? Because radishes are cool, of course.

Our plan was to show radishes in their close-to-natural state.  We artfully arranged them on a small cutting board, tried half a dozen napkins and backdrops to liven up the scene, and even sprayed the radishes with water and sprinkled them with salt to try to enhance the shot.  Clearly, I’d need to buy a macro lens to see the benefits of that salt trick.

That top photo is cool. I'm not quite sure where I was going with the others.

After class, I sent the photos to Vivian and she made one of them her backdrop. High praise, if you ask me! I wasn’t totally psyched by our efforts, but I was inspired to take a look at my own prop closet.

Oh…wait. I don’t have a prop closet! So, with $10 in my pocket I took a trip to the thrift store. (And then I spent another $10 at Target.) What do you think of my $20 investment?

I don't know what I'll use that mason jar for, but it was $2.  Who can pass up a miniature $2 mason jar!

I don't know what I'll use that mason jar for, but it was $2. Who can pass up a miniature $2 mason jar!

But, back to the radishes.  When I planted my first (and only) garden, I planted radishes.  It was a strange choice, as the only way I had ever seen radishes served was sliced in a green salad.  My dozen or so radishes were all ready to eat at the same time, and I didn’t know what to do with them.  As I remember correctly, I ate two and let the rest go bad in my fridge.

Gosh, they really are a pretty vegetable, aren't they?

I needed to find a way to give radishes their due. Luckily, for my cookbook review assignment, I choose The Farm: Rustic Recipes for a Year of Incredible Food.

There, on page 28, was the answer to my radish needs. Clearly, this is not my recipe. I don’t feel bad sharing it, as you could find it on the book preview on Amazon.com. But, seriously, after you make this recipe and are amazed by its deliciousness, go out and buy the book. It’s got beautiful pictures, amazing recipes, and some of the best food prose I’ve read this semester. And, believe me, I read a whole lot of food prose this semester!

Ian Knauer: my new food hero!

Ian Knauer: my new food hero!

Radishes with Bacon Butter

4 ounces bacon
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 stick butter
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 small shallot, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
4 bunches of radishes (that’s a lot!)

Pulse the bacon in a food processor until it’s chopped up in little pieces. (It’ll look like pure lard at this point, but it’ll all work out in the end.)

Fry the bacon in an iron skillet over medium heat until it’s just starting to brown. (Don’t wait until it’s fully cooked. You’ll end up with charcoal and have to make an emergency grocery story trip at 9:30 at night…not that I would know anything about that!)

Add the caraway seeds and let them sizzle and pop until fragrant. (30 seconds to 1 minute)

Let the bacon mixture cool.

With an electric mixer, cream butter and bacon mixture, bacon fat, salt, pepper, and lemon juice until fluffy, about five minutes.

Fold in shallot and parsley.

Butter and bacon. Bacon and butter. Why didn't I think of this before?

Butter and bacon. Bacon and butter. Why didn't I think of this before?

Dip the radish in the butter and eat. It sounds totally weird, but it’s apparently a French and/or Southern thing. I can’t imagine it with plain butter, but the bacon and caraway seeds play off the pepper of the radish just perfectly. So yummy!

Please, no comments about my wrinkly fingers.  They've been wrinkled since I was 10!

Please, no comments about my wrinkly fingers. They've been wrinkled since I was 10!

Oh, and the recipe says to leave about an inch of the tops on the radishes, I think so people can pick them up. But, then what do they do with the tops? And, a whole radish is somewhat awkward to try to eat.

I’d suggest cutting the radishes into more manageable pieces. They’re still perfectly easy to pick up and dip!

Wow. That's a lot of radishes. Cleaning them and chopping off their tops took forever!

Wow. That's a lot of radishes. Cleaning them and chopping off their tops took forever!

For whatever reason, the book claims that this serves eight. That’s half a bunch of radishes per person. Who eats that many radishes? I served it as an appetizer to 20 and still had leftovers. Luckily, my classmates are creative. They came up with many more ways to use the bacon butter. Some of my favorites?

On an everything bagel.
On a grilled steak.
On a baked potato.
On crackers.
On a spoon. (Yeah, it’s that good!)

 

Advertisements

One Comment to “Go, Team Radish!”

  1. Oh, this bacon butter was devine. Def. making sometime soon!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: