If you need a decisive kick in the butt culinarily speaking, horseradish will gladly give it to you along with the gift of its pungent flavor (and a bunch of vitamin C). You probably love it or hate it.
My dad was decisively in the ‘love it’ camp. Cowboy that he was, and he was, he would eat horseradish on almost anything along with an onion and a piece of meat. Food heaven for him. Around the table with friends and a prime rib, at that moment we all love horseradish; in Charlie’s Bloody Mary, we love it. But what else?
It grows out back on the outskirts of the garden, another easy Brassica. The root can be harvested year-round – we usually harvest a piece in December. The plant itself dies back in winter and is renewed each spring with tiny feathery fronds that eventually become broad leaves on long stalks that grow to about four feet in our garden.
Preparing horseradish, which is easy, is a minor culinary event in our kitchen because it portends something extraordinary in the works like good beef, a cocktail or special salad. In its simplest version horseradish root can be pulled from the garden any time of the year, peeled, finely grated and used as is in an array of recipes. With the addition of a little vinegar and salt it will last in the fridge for weeks, months. (Horseradish gradually loses its punch over time, so the kick you get on day one will be diminished a few hours or twenty days later.)
It’s invariably paired with beef and its culinary reputation has been built around that. But there’s more to this racy root than meets the eye.
Harvest 3 or 4 inches of horseradish root/ Peel, grate finely and use as is with a pinch of salt/ To preserve add 1 T white wine vinegar and a pinch of salt/ Will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks and can be added to a variety of recipes. Make it creamy by stirring several tablespoons into a cup of whipped cream, sour cream or a mix of the two. With meat, of course, but try stirring 1/4 – 1/2 cup of this creamy horseradish into mashed potatoes.
Beet & Horseradish Salad
3 medium-sized beets (Golden beets this time – I guess it’s obvious)
Plain horseradish to taste (I used about 2T)
1/2 t Dijon mustard
1 t sugar
Salt & Pepper to taste
2 T red wine or apple cider vinegar
1/2 – 2/3 C yogurt &/or sour cream (a mix of plain yogurt & mayo works)
Roast or steam beets until just tender or al dente/ Let cool and grate cooked beets/ Stir together 1/2 C mayo (or sour cream), 1/2 C yogurt, 1/2 tsp. mustard, 1 tsp. sugar, salt & pepper, 2 T vinegar. Mix with grated beets, sprinkled with fresh or dried dill. This is smashing on its own – my new favorite – or on the side with a bowlful of chopped greens like kale or chard, with salad greens and a bit of cheese. Haven’t tried this, but the addition of sliced or grated apple would be good. This dressing is great with cabbage slaw. (Photo doesn’t do it justice, but this salad is spectacular if . . . you like beets and horseradish.)
Modified from The Victory Garden Cookbook recipe for beet relish.
Make your usual Bloody Mary with vodka or gin, tomato and lime juice, lots of lime, maybe a splash of worchestershire, tobasco or both, embellished with the usual celery or celeraic. Add a teaspoon or so of horseradish to finish and take this cocktail over the top. Clear your sinuses and party on.