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Radishes my Mother's Way

I so enjoy spring, not only for the fact that the weather warms up and the days are getting longer, but seasonal vegetables such as radishes and asparagus are readily available...and, in season, they are wonderful.
Farm fresh radishes ready to be cleaned

The best and freshest radishes are those with the greens still attached.  It's best to remove the greens before storage because they will draw out moisture from the roots and eventually dry out the radish.

Fresh, crisp red radishes were one of my mother's favorite vegetables and here are a couple of ways she taught me to enjoy them.

  For a quick, healthy snack, just spread a little peanut butter on the radish.  The peanut butter cuts down on any sharpness and it provides protein so a low calorie snack like this will last and help reduce the craving for additional snacks.  A great treat if you're trying to lose weight.

The other is a simple radish salad my mother used to pull together in seconds.  It's delicious, very quick and easy and you probably have all the ingredients in your kitchen right now.  My mother would serve it as one of the side dishes to our Chinese meals.  I hope you'll enjoy it.

SWEET AND SOUR RADISH SALAD - serves 4 as a side dish

2 bunches of fresh radishes ( about 20 radishes) - both ends trimmed and washed well
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon light brown sugar
2 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Asian sesame oil

Crush each radish with the broad side of a knife.  A Chinese knife is best for this job.  Cut larger ones in half before crushing.  Just crush enough to crack the radish so it will absorb the dressing better.

Place the radish in a bowl and sprinkle with salt.  Let stand for 15 minuites and drain. Transfer to a serving bowl.

Mix the sugar and vinegar together in a small bowl and pour it over the radishes.  Drizzle with the sesame oil, toss and serve. 

Sweet and Sour Radish Salad

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Like so many of us, Helen Chen learned to cook at her mother's side. But few of us had a mother like Joyce Chen. Helen grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where her mother prepared the authentic dishes of her native Shanghai and Beijing with the sort of regularity the rest of us came to expect of macaroni and cheese or meatloaf.

"I remember when I was little, watching my mother prepare meals for family and friends. I once wrote a list of my favorite Chinese dishes," Helen recalls, "I came up with 150 recipes. I do not have one or two favorites. All the dishes on the list are traditional and all are ones that I learned from my mother. That is what I love most about Chinese food: its variety. Taste, texture and color all come into play, as does personality and culture. I think this is what cooking is all about."

Soft spoken and intensely intelligent, Helen Chen was born in Shanghai and moved to the U.S. with her family while still a baby. Helen grew up, as she describes it, in a traditional Chinese-American household. "When I was young I wanted to be totally American," she remembers. "It wasn't until I was in high school that I realized how lucky I was to have two cultures."

Today, Helen Chen is a widely acknowledged expert in Chinese cooking. Besides her role as an educator and cookbook author, she also is a corporate spokesperson and business consultant to the house wares industry. In 2007 she created and developed a new line of Asian kitchenware under the brand name Helen’s Asian Kitchen®, expressly for Harold Import Company in New Jersey.

Having been born in China and raised and educated in the United States, Helen brings the best of both worlds to her approach to the art of Chinese cuisine. She understands the needs of the American cook as only a native can, yet she is intimately knowledgeable in the culinary practices and philosophy of China.

In her active role as a teacher and educator, Helen teaches Chinese cuisine at Boston University; and, through the Anderson Foundation’s enrichment program ‘Cooking Up Culture’ she teaches Boston area school children from grades 1-12 about Chinese cuisine and culture. She also teaches Asian cuisine in numerous cooking schools across the country.

Helen has lectured to various professional and culinary organizations such as the International Association of Culinary Professionals, Boston University Seminars in the Arts and Culinary Arts, Oldways Preservations and Exchange Trust, Small Business Development Center, The Culinary Historians of Boston, Women Chefs and Restaurateurs and the Culinary Guild of New England. In addition, she conducts culinary tours of Boston’s Chinatown and is a frequent guest chef at cooking schools around the U.S.

Helen is the author of Helen Chen’s Chinese Home Cooking (Hearst Books, 1994), Peking Cuisine (Orion Books,1997) and Helen’s Asian Kitchen: Easy Chinese Stir-Fries (John Wiley & Sons, 2009). A second book in the Helen’s Asian Kitchen series, Helen’s Asian Kitchen: Easy Asian Noodles is scheduled for publication in January, 2010.