Shaved Radish Salad with Sunflower Seeds and Ricotta Salata
Generous dressing and lots of added texture takes a humble root vegetable to new limits.
Welcome to SAVEUR’s weekly column on how to cook local produce along with our test kitchen manager, Fatima Khawaja. This is where you’ll find creative, unfussy meal ideas plus plenty of cooking advice—like what to do with that bumper crop of zucchini or how to store delicate heirloom tomatoes. Each week, Fatima hits the farmers market and chooses a peak-season ingredient to explore in depth. Follow along, and you’ll learn how to turn the season’s bounty into easy plant-based meals that’ll be on the table in under an hour.
I love the crisp and peppery flavor of raw radishes. The red supermarket standbys are good in a pinch, but I find the rainbow of heirloom radishes at the farmers market these days far more intriguing. The best, most delicate radishes appear right as spring begins—while the cheerful roots are available just about year-round, they become spicier the longer they’re left in the ground. The radishes’ horseradishy flavor holds up well to acidic dressings, and pungent alliums, so I’ve featured some of my favorite varieties in this bright and crunchy salad.
Small and tender French breakfast radishes, which also shine as a crudité dipped in butter, Boursin, or yogurt dips, are increasingly easy-to-find, as are the vibrant pink and green watermelon radishes. Whichever radish catches your eye, be sure to select specimens that are firm, unsplit, and wrinkle-free, with fresh green tops.
About those tops—don’t throw them away! Separate the radish roots from their greens and wash both thoroughly (radishes are notoriously gritty). If they aren’t too gnarly, the greens can be tossed into a salad or pan-fried in butter. Stored in the fridge, in an airtight container lined with paper towels, radish greens will retain their crispness for about three days; the roots, stored separately, can last a week or more.
Biting texture, mild, radishy heat, floral honey, and tart lemon juice make this salad an easy and refreshing addition to your spring or summer kitchen lineup. Dressing the radishes 10 minutes before serving enhances their flavor as they take on a quick-pickle character. Salty, pressed ricotta salata, which is different from ordinary fresh ricotta, is salted, pressed, and slightly aged, yielding a dryer, crumbly yet sliceable texture. Look for it in your local cheese shop, Italian specialty markets, or well-stocked grocery stores.
- ¼ cups plus 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 3 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 tbsp. honey
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tbsp. toasted sunflower seeds, toasted
- 2 scallions, dark green tops removed, sliced thinly on the bias
- 2 lb. radishes (preferably French Breakfast, Cherry Belle, Watermelon, or Easter Egg), cut into ½-in. pieces
- ¼ cups coarsely chopped mint leaves
- 2 oz. ricotta salata, thinly shaved
- In a serving bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, oil, and honey. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then add the sunflower seeds, scallions, and radishes and toss to coat. Sprinkle over the mint and ricotta salata and serve.