Right Here, Right Now

This, all too brief, time of year when the garden is offering up treasures I would drive multiple time zones for in February, I find myself stumped in the kitchen.  Surprising, since I have before me the best raw materials I will see all year.

But that’s just the point.  I want to step aside, get out of their way, and let these vibrant little bundles do what they do best all on their own.  How can I possibly improve upon late summer perfection?

This year for the first time we are growing in our gardens elegant little french breakfast radishes and delicate and creamy fingerling potatoes.  The radishes have been surprisingly successful and grow quite rapidly.  As a kid radishes were one of only two foods I wouldn’t touch (the other was PB&J….)  But these are crisp and bright, and have a wonderfully mild peppery zing.

The potatoes have just started to bear fruit, almost a foot underground.  I have been diligently nursing the plants all season, mounding and mounding the dirt.  When I read on the internet the other day that the first small new potatoes should be ready around day 60, I was sent into a complete impromptu digging frenzy.  No plan, no shovel, and dirt painfully jammed very deeply under my triumphant fingernails.  But so very worth it for the small two serving colander-full that I brought in for supper.  They were a revelation.  Fragile, tissue-paper thin skins, and a complex flavor that reminded me that these were a delicacy, not just a background starch.

Here are two quick and simple recipes that showcase these vegetables in their purest form, with nothing covering up their brilliant flavors.  If you can get beauties from the farmer’s market, or your garden, it is like tasting potatoes and radishes for the first time.

French Radish Crostini
(first taught to me by Jacques Pepin)

Fresh Radishes
Butter, higher quality the better, room temperature
Sea Salt
Crusty Baguette

Slice radishes as thinly as possible.  Thinly slice the baguette, slightly on a bias, in 1/4-1/2” slices.  Spread liberally with butter.  Layer radish slices on buttered bread.  Sprinkle with sea salt.  (Note:  Baguette slices may be toasted slightly on a cookie sheet if desired.)

Oven Roasted Fingerling Potatoes

New Fingerling Potatoes
Olive Oil
Thyme Sprigs, stems removed
Salt and Pepper

Heat oven to 400 °F.

Cut potatoes, if necessary, so that they are fairly uniform in size, but try to keep as many whole as possible.  Toss with enough olive oil to evenly cover.  Add thyme leaves, a few large pinches of salt and grinds of black pepper.  Toss again to evenly distribute.  Pour into a roasting pan or baking sheet, preferably in a single layer.  Roast in the oven until tender, about 40 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces.

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Catie Baumer Schwalb is a chef, food writer and photographer, who splits her life between the city and the country. Not too long ago Catie was a New York City based actress and playwright for more than a decade. She has her Master of Fine Arts from the National Theater Conservatory, and her Grand Diplôme in classic culinary arts from the French Culinary Institute in New York City. ... Read More

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