Yesterday, on the way to our friends’ post-wedding brunch, I stopped at the local community garden to drop off some overly ripe compost. After gingerly emptying the stinky bags into the compost bins and rinsing off my hands – no one wants to show up at a party smelling of rotting food scraps – I paused for a moment. I picked two lavender blossoms and two sprigs of lovage flowers and divided them between my daughters as a gift for the newlyweds.
The lovage, in particular, made me smile. It seemed like ages ago that we had sat by a campfire and played a game where you guess the definitions of unfamiliar words. One of those had-to-be-there moments, but for my future husband and this future groom who were just beginning to know each other, it sealed the deal on their friendship. Together, they were completely in stitches as one read the other's definition of lovage: a ton of love. Just watching them on the brink of peeing in their pants from laughter was a joy.
My daughters delivered their little bouquets to the couple and we grown-ups indulged in a little reminiscing. The party spread out onto the terrace where a small potted vegetable garden was beginning to grow under the care of the bride and groom. Before I left the party, they gave me one of their homegrown radishes. I brought it home, photographed it, and without it ever having to undergo refrigeration, prepared and ate it. Leaves and all.
So to make a long story short (too late!) here’s what I made with it. They’re not recipes. I used what happened to be in my fridge, which wasn’t much, but luckily for me was just right.
Radish and salt on buttered bread. I had picked up a baguette on the way home. When I opened the fridge, I found a small nugget of Stilton and some fresh chives, along with their blossoms. With a light sprinkling of sea salt and a schmear of sweet butter, they all made for a beautiful and simple open-faced sandwich. If I didn’t have these ingredients, maybe I would have done radish, butter, and rye bread out of the freezer. If I didn’t have that, radish, butter and salt. I could have reduced it down to radish and salt or, ultimately, just radish and it would have been delicious.
Skillet sausage with onion, rhubarb, and radish greens. I chopped up the bright green leaves and tossed them in with browned chicken sausage, onions and rhubarb (which had been softened and mellowed by cooking it with a dash of salt, and a few teaspoons of sugar). The radish leaves needed just a minute or so in the heat before they were wilted, tender, and an even brighter green. Only the freshest radish leaves will perform this well. Store-bought radish leaves are often dried out and blemished and not worth eating. But if you get radishes at a farm stand or luck out at the store with some nice-looking radish greens, cook them right away. You can simply add them as a supplement to other cooked greens. Even if you just have a small amount, the chopped greens make a fresh addition to soup, cooked grains, or a quick pasta dish.
Small gifts, but given with a ton of love.