Grated Daikon Radish Salad

October 18, 2012

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Taste Memory

My father was a wonderful cook. Not a gourmet chef; he cooked homey, old-country food that had the whole house smelling of comfort and love. Before I was born he owned and ran steakhouses. Later on he was a cook and manager in several restaurants.

One of my earliest cooking memories is of being with my dad in the restaurant kitchen. I was four years old and begged him to teach me how to cook like him. I suppose he felt that the safest thing to teach a four-year old was how to make a dinner salad. Together we washed and dried the lettuce. He gave me a dinner knife and I cut the leaves into pieces. Next came the tomatoes. I cut them into pieces. Then came the carrots. They were tricky. They rolled around the cutting board until my dad showed me how to hold them with one hand and chop with my knife hand.

At that moment he got called away into the dining room, but I happily chipped away at those carrots. Predictably, my knife slipped, and I cut my finger instead! I wrapped my finger in a paper napkin and tried to hide it as I waited for him to return. Of course he noticed my finger and was very concerned and upset with himself for leaving me with that dull dinner knife. He washed my cut, put a Band-Aid on it, and I resumed my “cooking” lesson: the dressing. He taught me how to mix vegetable oil with vinegar, a bit of sugar, salt and pepper. I was so proud of that salad! And – to his credit – he ate every bite, telling me that it was the best salad he’d ever tasted. I remember feeling so thrilled that my “cooking” was bringing someone else happiness and satisfaction.

In time he left that industry for a profession outside of the kitchen. He had a young daughter to raise on his own and needed consistent daytime work hours.

He never stopped cooking at home though. Some of his best-loved dishes were flanken-in-the-pot (think: pot-au-feu), chopped liver (think: pâté), potato latkes (think: rosti), gefilte fish (think: poached fish quenelles).

Many years ago, when I was still living in Toronto, I entered one of my dad’s recipes in an online contest sponsored by Food Network Canada. They were putting together a cookbook called “The Great Canadian Feast – A Celebration of Family Traditions from Canadian Kitchens.” My recipe was selected to be included in the cookbook! This is what I wrote to introduce the recipe:

“My father came from Poland and created an appetizer that I grew up eating. I am amazed as an adult to realize that he used the now popular daikon radish and olive oil. How did it become a traditional Polish-Jewish dish in his household? I loved it as a child and I still love it today. He died many years ago, so I cannot ask him how it came to be, but I’m so grateful for the taste memory he left behind – and it’s a healthy one too!”

Grated Radish Salad

Daikon radish is reported to help digestion and relieve constipation. It has anti-inflammatory and anti-congestive properties. It is high in vitamin C and vitamin B complex and has a high enzyme content which aids in fat and starch digestion. All of that is wonderful, but for me what makes it most nourishing is it’s comforting link to my dad.

1 large, firm daikon radish, peeled

½ cup chopped fresh parsley

Juice of 1 lemon

3 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

How to make Grated Radish Salad:

Grate the radish into a large bowl using a box grater. (You may also use the shredding disc and a food processor).

Mix in the parsley, lemon juice, and olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Chill for at least 1 hour, and serve.

Serves 6

Note: This can be served as an appetizer or salad and is a wonderful side dish for grilled or barbecued fish, chicken or beef.




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