Iron Chef Wannabe
It’s a good thing I’m camera shy. Otherwise I might have tried out for the Food Network’s The Next Iron Chef show. I don’t often get to watch the real Iron Chef show but when I do, I’m ridiculously intrigued with how creative the chef’s get with unusual secret ingredients. I wish I had that constant challenge before me, forcing me to routinely try new things and stretch my limits. Then again, I don’t think I could bring myself to touch an eel, let alone cook it.
Chef Morimoto is one of my favorites on the show. Besides being partial to a chef who makes his home (by times) in Philadelphia, it seems to me he embraces the element of “unexpected” in his dishes more so than other chefs. He does that in his restaurant and cookbook as well. Take a look at the menu if you don’t believe me. When I saw Daikon radishes at the Headhouse Market last week, I knew immediately that I had to try my hand at one of Morimoto’s recipes I’ve been eyeballing for awhile.
These big unwieldy radishes are very long and straight with a relatively mild taste. They’re a cornerstone in many Japanese dishes, including salads, soups and dipping sauces. But as far as I know, Morimoto’s the only one that’s turned them into a deceptive fettuccine dish. To tell the truth, it was curiosity that was tugging me to try it, not my taste buds as I really had my doubts about an entire dish of cooked radish. I like my radishes raw and in small quantities in leafy salads or occasionally tossed in a whole grain salad. I still had to try it though…I’m a “wannabe” after all! And the ingredient list didn’t involve any raw fish. Definite bonus!
The sauce called for basil, which is now out of season here in Philly, so I took the opportunity to break out my first basil ice cube. It proved to be the perfect amount of basil to balance against the peppery radish. I changed a few other components of the sauce as well since I’d rather keep using fresh local tomatoes while I have them. I just can’t believe I do still have them – it’s mid-November for cryin’ out loud! If you’re making this outside of your local tomato season, substitute a can of plum tomatoes and their juice for the fresh tomatoes and tomato paste I have listed.
So, does it taste like fettuccine? No. But it is mighty tasty in its own unique way. I really didn’t notice the radish flavor much at all. The biggest hint as to the origin of the “noodles” was the slight crunch they had. The sauce, the real flavor agent in this dish, was superb and might become my new stand-in for fast pasta dishes. One word of caution though before you take on this recipe yourself – make sure you have a good vegetable peeler. Once you have one, you’ll be ready to do battle in true Iron Chef fashion!
Daikon Fettuccine with Tomato Basil Sauce
Adapted from Morimoto: The New Art of Japanese Cooking
2 large daikon radishes (about 1 lb)
2 large heirloom tomatoes
3 T. tomato paste
3 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t. sugar
1 t. salt
1 T. frozen basil puree or 2 T. fresh basil chopped
With a vegetable peeler, peel the outer skin of the daikon and discard. Continue to peel the diakon lengthwise to create “fettuccine noodles”. Soak “noodles” in cold salted water for at least 20 minutes or up to overnight. When ready to prepare fettuccine, drain “noodles” on a kitchen towel while preparing the sauce.
To make sauce, heat oil over medium-high and saute onion and garlic until softened. If using frozen basil, add it along with the onion and garlic to begin melting. Dice the tomatoes and add to saucepan. After tomatoes are softened, about 2 minutes, add tomato paste, salt and sugar. Stir well and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Season liberally freshly ground black pepper. If using fresh basil, add it now.
Add drained “noodles” to sauce and toss gently to coat. Cook for 2-3 minutes until heated through. Serve immediately, mounded up in bowls (the sauce is rather runny) and garnished with parmesan cheese shavings.