Update on 1/20/2013: A wonderful reader named Naran sent me a kind email and told me about a possible side effect of eating large amounts of daikon – it acts as a laxative! For this reason, I suggest daikon pasta as a side dish; I’ve dropped the serving suggestion from a cup to a half-cup.
I’m onto something exciting here. This past Monday, I picked up my first food co-op order, which included such treats as raw honey, garlic herb butter and a baking blend that was milled right here in Maine. Along with these goodies, I ordered a veggie box. It’s like a toy box for folks who geek out over local produce.
The veggie boxes contain a variety of vegetables and fruits from numerous Crown O’ Maine farmer-vendors. Whatever’s available and still fresh goes into the box.
During winter months, that means a heavy dose of root vegetables. Root vegetables store well and last for months, effectively extending a Mainer’s ability to eat local, fresh food throughout the year (rather than just during those obvious harvest-heavy months at the end of summer and early autumn).
My veggie box this week required some uneducated guesses and internet research – what is this long, fancy tuber? Is this a root vegetable? Holy smokes, is that a black radish?!
(Yes, it was a black radish.)
I received one medium-sized daikon and what appear to be several smaller daikon. I had never heard of daikon and, thankfully, my internet research skills led me to believe that it’s not a chubby parsnip.
A daikon is a white radish. Prior to Monday, I thought all radishes were red. Come to find out, radishes don’t have to be red. They can be black or white and are sometimes available in Technicolor.
Since daikon is new to my kitchen, my internet research also involved figuring out to prepare it.
I found multiple mentions of daikon fettuccine and, wouldn’t you know, I tried it out and it’s a keeper.
What you need
Tomato sauce of your choice
Cold, salted water
1. Peel the daikon with a swivel-headed carrot peeler. Remove the outer “peel” (with all those little random root hairs) and then peel off some more. I made the mistake of not peeling enough when I prepared my fettuccine, and some of the daikon bites were a little tougher than I’d like. The actual flesh (inside) of the daikon is delicate and mild.
2. Use the carrot peeler to peel off long strips of daikon, creating makeshift fettuccine. Peel enough daikon in this fashion to create as many half-cup servings as you please.
3. Add the daikon fettuccine to a glass bowl of cold, salted water and let soak for 20 minutes.
4. Warm up tomato sauce of your choice in a skillet while fettuccine is soaking.
5. After the 20-minute soak, remove fettuccine and dry with a paper towel.
6. Add the fettuccine to the warm tomato sauce and stir for 2-3 minutes until daikon is slightly soft and warmed through.
7. Remove from skillet and serve.
8. Marvel at how you’re eating a white radish like it’s pasta and, by golly, it’s actually working. Don’t marvel so much that you eat additional servings. Daikon may act as a laxative.
In addition to getting in a good dose of vegetables (remember, we’re supposed to eat a lot of them in a day), daikon fettuccine serves the eater by providing a tasty side dish that contains considerably less calories and carbohydrates perhalf-cup serving when compared to conventional fettuccine pasta.
A half-cup of daikon (without your preferred tomato sauce) has 12 calories and 2 grams of carbohydrates.
Conventional fettuccine? 110 calories for half a cup and 25 grams of carbohydrates! OUCH.
So how does it taste? Pretty darn good. I was concerned I’d have an issue with texture (because I usually have an issue with texture – here’s looking at you, celery), but I barely noticed that I was eating a vegetable instead of a soft conglomerate of eggs and flour.
Also, the taste of radish is pretty non-existent. The only time I caught hints of it was when I crunched through that outer layer of skin I shouldn’t have included in my dish. Remember: stick with the softer flesh on the inside.
I’m all about feeling good. And it feels good to sneak vegetables into my diet, support Maine’s small farmers, and know that my food came from my state and was spared pesticide sprays.
It’s exactly what I mean by putting farm and garden back on the table.
Please – give daikon a chance! And, if you do, let the Call Me Old Fashioned community know how you prepared it and how it turned out by leaving a comment.