It didn’t take very much imagination to make this dish; I was admiring the bright, red berries just arrived in their teal cardboard cartons when I spied bunches of similar round objects sitting nearby at the Greenmarket. Craving something crunchy to off-set the strawberries’ sweet softness and juice, I had already picked up a bag of granola — and some yogurt, too. But radishes, in a fresh, crisp salad to surround them instead? I thought, hey, why not?
Yes, strawberries have finally arrived, after a slow spring growing season in this region. They’re worth waiting for if only to serve as a reminder that this type of strawberry can exist. (Compared to strawberries that are available year-round anywhere, in-season, local strawberries are on steroids in terms of taste.) It wasn’t a funky, rare or heirloom variety of strawberry that the New Jersey-based Kernan Farms had at Grand Army Plaza today, but just a darn good, ripe, red, juicy strawberry. They were solid. And I was sold.
This isn’t the type of dish you’d want to use strawberries from the bottom of the bushel with, a few days old in the fridge. Save those for making some jam or a pie with. This is the kind of dish you’d want to make with a new pile of firm ones, after biting the first few on the top right off their stems. Strawberries just don’t stay like this very long, so this salad really celebrates their pristine state.
Think of the strawberries as being used more or less like tomatoes here. They provide the sweetness, now you just have to balance it with something tart, and let their intensity drive something else. In this case, it was radishes, but I thought this combination was particularly apt because of the ingredients’ too-cute likeness in color and size. Balsamic vinegar was the immediate choice for some extra acidity; Italians have made strawberries and this a classic. Then, for some lightness and vibrant green contrast, I added some sprigs of fresh, flat-leaved parsley.
There are some herbs that you really don’t want to eat the stems of, since they’re woody. Then there are others, like parsley, whose crisp, slender stems are delightful when kept on. I kept the stems on for this salad and served them pretty much whole (save for tearing the sprigs through the middle just once so I wouldn’t have to twirl them like spaghetti with my fork).
Of course, it didn’t need anything but a drizzle of olive oil to tie it all together. Forget salt, pepper, or — god forbid — sugar when you’re dealing with such fresh, perfect produce like this.
Strawberry and Radish Salad with Balsamic Vinegar and Parlsey
(makes 4 servings)
1/2 lb fresh, ripe, juicy, unblemished strawberries (preferably just in season and local so as to be super-sweet and ripe)
1/2 lb fresh sparkler radishes
about 1 tablespoon Balsamic vinegar
about 1 tablespoon of your best extra-virgin olive oil
1 bunch Italian or flat-leaved parlsey
Trim the stems off both the strawberries and radishes. Cut radishes into quarters and do the same with the strawberries if they’re large; small-medium-sized strawberries can just be halved.
Wash and pat parsley dry. Trim off ends and tear the whole, long sprigs just once through the middle so that pieces are about 2″ and include the stems.
Mix the balsamic vinegar and olive oil at the bottom of a large bowl. Add the parsley and toss. Add the radishes and strawberries and toss once more. Serve immediately.
(for 4 salad servings)
1/2 lb strawberries (at $8/large carton): $6
1/2 lb radishes (about 1 bunch): $2.50
1 bunch parsley: $2.00
tablespoon each olive oil and balsamic vinegar: $0.40
This recipe gets two brownie points, much due to its profuse use of flat-leaved parsley. This is one power-herb that can serve as a leafy green, and it should, because it’s packed with nutrition. It’s a detoxifier, a diuretic, and breath-freshener, with three times the Vitamin C of oranges and twice the iron of spinach. Then there’s radishes, which are huge in potassium as well as Vitamin C (and tend to make people feel more full when eaten fresh because of their dense water content); and strawberries, this salad’s sweetening agent and another source of Vitamin C. Finally, you can skip the elaborate dressings and opt for just a splash of oil and vinegar (if even that) due to the flavorfulness of the ingredients themselves.
Seven maple leaves: Pretty soon, this dish could be made from entirely Brooklyn-grown ingredients, as strawberries, radishes and parsley are getting close to harvesting on the roof. For now, they’re from local farms in the area; although the oil and vinegar were imported.