Mornings like this

Some mornings start too early, with too little milk, and too far away from home. For instance, this morning. By 4:34 am I had already shampooed my hair, checked my bag, and made it through security to Gate A7 at Boston Logan. Some people, I understand, do things like this routinely, but I am not one of them. Nor do I ever hope to be.


Instead, mornings like this make me wish I could still be at home, asleep, waking up in a few hours to red and yellow tulips and a breakfast spread like the one above. Because that blackened baguette you see up there? That is a very good thing.

It’s a French thing, one that I’d heard my father talk about once or twice—but one that I’d never dreamed of making until we grew a crop of very spicy radishes this spring. They’re black radishes, nero tondo or gros noir d'hiver, from 16th century Europe, and they grow crazy fast. We have to eat at least two a day, otherwise the leaves will completely overshadow the row of scallions next door, and we might never see the spinach again. We bring them in, shower them, and scrub their skins clean. Then, I peel them off, because the other day I figured out that the skin is where the spice lives.

When it comes to radishes, I am no fan of spice.

Actually, if we're being honest, I don’t really love any radishes, spice or not. I like them alright, in a salad or a stir-fry, but for the most part, I don't think they add much. They kind of disappear between the butter lettuce and the dressing without giving even a passing kick.

But that spread above—radishes on toast? It changes all that. Or rather, I should say, very thinly sliced radishes and salted butter and sea salt on toast that is slightly burnt and still warm. The change has everything to do with the details.

For starters, the toast needs to be a little bit black. I burnt it accidentally the first time I made this, but then when I got to the end, to the tiny section of the loaf that was only golden brown, I realized it had been a serendipitous mistake. The butter tastes sweeter on slightly burnt toast, and the radishes do, too. With a sprinkling of salt, the whole thing melds together. The radishes get so bendy they nearly blend in with the butter, the toast stays stiff underneath, and the salt bring the whole thing alive.

It's the kind of breakfast that makes you want to dance around the room. But since I only have 13 minutes more of paid time on Cleaveland International's wireless at&t, I'm not going to stick around for that.

I'll see you Thursday, and you'll just have to let me know how it went.


The variety of radishes I used for this, nero tondo, is very spicy. If you're going to buy yours at the farmers' market or grow them yourself, I think I would stick with a pink variety—one that is more delicate, with a little less kick. French breakfast would be nice, or the ones that they call Easter eggs.

half a baguette, sliced in half horizontally and then cut in half again
6 or 7 large radishes, sliced very thin
butter, for shaving
sea salt to taste

Toast the baguette until it is just a little bit black. Shave as much butter as you feel is right over the warm toast in long peels. Layer with radishes, and sprinkle sea salt over top. Eat warm, with a cup of creamy coffee or sweet black tea.


Alison said...

I think it is fantastic that you are blogging en route...a brilliant way to pass time. I will have to try the radishes on toast. We always grow them, but never really end up eating that many. A shame, but I'm not competely fond of them, I guess. Like you, we usually eat them in salads.

Anonymous said...

safe trip e! call me when you're writing by the pool in between one of your million sessions.

Elspeth said...


we have the exact same problem—or i suppose i should say we did. we grew radishes, and washed them, and put them in the fridge, but never really ate them. i swear, this is the solution. can't wait to hear what you think!


i will. just arrived at the greenbrier, which is so far as i can tell the largest hotel ever built. lots of pictures, and more soon.

all the best,

Tara said...

How funny. I adore radishes, and love them spicy. I pull them up from the garden a few at a time, and they almost never even make it inside the house. The dirt gets brushed off and they go straight into my mouth. I think radishes exist purely as a "working outdoors" snack. If mine do make it into the house, I like them alongside a toasted English muffin with egg salad.

Elspeth said...

radishes seem to be universally without a home!

tara, if you like them spicy, you should definitely try these nero tondo types---you will love them to bits.

Judy said...

Ah those poor radishes!

I learned to love radishes when I had them as an appetizer with anchovy butter and coarse sea salt at The Girl and the Fig in Sonoma, CA. I bought her cookbook just for that recipe - and now have them often. The saltiness and the crisp, ice-cold combination can't be beat. Yum!

Your recipe sounds equally as good and I'll try it - thanks for sharing.

Elspeth said...


I will have to try your version. This week at the Orleans farmers' market, I found some French Breakfast radishes, and it sounds like anchovy butter will be their fate.

Thank you so much for being here—


Pete Russell said...


Just came across your blog. Love it. You might be interested in having a look at www.ooooby.org

Lots of people there who would appreciate what you have to say. Over 1000 food gardener and locavores networking together.

Ooooby is an acronym for Out of our own back yards.

Hope you like it.



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