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Changing Tastes

April 20, 2008

A few years ago, if you had told me that I’d be writing this post today — about homemade mayonnaise and radishes — I would have said you were nuts. No, not “nuts”….

NUTS.

I have, for most of my life, despised anything containing mayonnaise as a prominent ingredient. I know many people love mayonnaise, and I’m certainly not arguing with the millions who do, but I was convinced it just wasn’t for me. Gloppy white potato salads? Ugh. “Macaroni salad” with the jiggly white stuff binding together overcooked, mushy elbow macaroni? Gag me. I avoided any kind of “club sandwich” because I knew there would be mayo hiding in a sneaky slick on the layers of bread. BLTs? I wanted to eat those, but I couldn’t get past the fact that mayo was a key ingredient. Actually, ordering sandwiches out — or catered lunches at work — was always treacherous territory…I’d been burned a few times with mayonnaise thickly coating the bread, gratis, like it was just assumed everyone would want it on their sandwich, right? Wrong. I love lobster rolls, but only the hot kind with melted butter dripping all over the lobster, please. And I only *recently* began eating chicken salad, but usually only the kind I make — with plain yogurt subbing in for most of the mayonnaise. (Oh, and um…I do love the chicken salad sandwich at Finale in Cambridge, MA. But that kind of doesn’t count, because I love mostly anything they have there.)

So, I suppose you could say that mayo and I have had a testy relationship to date.

And let’s discuss radishes: the only kind I’d ever tasted up until about 2 years ago were the supermarket kind, big and bulbous — pretty, no doubt — but way too aggressively “horseradish-y” for me. Any salad that had radishes sliced into it turned me off, and I couldn’t imagine how anyone could possibly eat them raw and not feel like their nasal passages were being assaulted. That, to me, was not a fun eating experience.

So imagine my surprise when, about 2 years ago, we got a bunch of Easter Egg radishes one week in our CSA share. “Danger, danger!” my horseradish radar screamed, but all I could think was “oooooooh, pretty!” I gazed, googly-eyed, at how gorgeous they were — all shades of rose, white, crimson and purple. “Okay,” I thought… “might as well give these one more try, once and for all.”

Well! Imagine my surprise when I actually liked them! These weren’t the violently hot radishes of the supermarket: these were delicate, crispy, with just a hint of bite at the end — just enough for a little interest. My world was rocked, to be sure.

Mayonnaise has been a more difficult beast to conquer. Over the past few years, I’ve found that I can tolerate the stuff in very small amounts, and usually when it’s mixed with another strong flavor that I like — basil mayo or chipotle mayo on a sandwich, garlic aioli, etc. — but I still would never choose to eat it.

All of this is to say, I was kind of shocked to find my interest piqued after reading a few articles recently about the glories of homemade mayonnaise. If you read Orangette or Bon Appetit, you’ve probably read Molly Wizenberg’s articles, waxing poetic about a similar trajectory from mayonnaise hate to mayonnaise love. After reading her stories, I wanted to see for myself: could making homemade mayonnaise turn me around?

This past weekend, the Ithaca Farmer’s Market was showing the first beautiful signs of spring: vegetables that I actually associate with spring (more than just the potatoes and root veg) have finally arrived — wahoo! My prize find this weekend was a bundle of French Breakfast Radishes, attractively slender, vibrantly colored, and just begging to be eaten raw.

Spring Radishes: my entry into the April 2008 CLICK event

Besides these radishes (and along with some other vegetables), I picked up some fresh chervil and lovely organic free-range eggs from Kingbird Farm. When I brought my loot home and was deciding what to make for lunch, I wanted to make some sort of dip for the raw radishes. I knew I had the eggs, and some nice fresh herbs…so, now was as good a time as any to embark on the homemade mayonnaise adventure!

I used the spring herb mayonnaise recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks, Cooking with Shelburne Farms. It’s dead simple to make: two egg yolks go into your blender or food processor, along with some dijon mustard, champagne/white wine vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper. After those are blended, a light-tasting oil is drizzled in, slowly, until you have creamy, billowy pillows of pale, luscious yellow mayonnaise.

I have to admit I was kind of shocked at this point at how good it looked.

I folded in some freshly chopped chives, chervil and parsley…and snuck a little taste.

Holy moly. This stuff was actually good! No, not “good”….AMAZING. An entirely, wholly different creature from the gloppy, jiggly white storebought stuff, I would happily spread this on sandwiches, dip raw vegetables into it, use it as an aromatic skin facial…ha. No, just kidding on that last one, though it is dreamily rich and smooth, like a luxurious facial mask.

Anyway, we dipped our radishes into it, along with some slices of multigrain bread, also from the farmer’s market. It was a deliciously inspiring day for me: just goes to show you, it’s never too late for tastes to change, and good ingredients can make a world of difference in changing those tastes.

One last note — see those beautiful radishes a few pictures above? I’m entering them into this month’s CLICK! event, themed “au naturel;” entries for this round must highlight food in its natural state. The event is hosted by jugalbandi, and you can see all entries here.

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Spring Herb Mayonnaise

From Cooking with Shelburne Farms

Ingredients
2 egg yolks (good quality – preferably organic)
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar or champagne vinegar
1 cup light-tasting oil such as grapeseed or light olive
1 teaspoon each of 3-4 finely minced fresh herbs: I used chives, chervil and parsley

Directions
In a blender or food processor, blend the egg yolks, mustard, lemon juice, vinegar, and salt until smooth. With the motor running, gradually drizzle the oil through the hole in the lid until the mayonnaise is thick and creamy.

Scrape the mayonnaise into a bowl and add the fresh minced herbs. Use a spatula to fold the herbs in, then taste and adjust the seasonings if needed.

The mayonnaise will keep in the fridge for a day or two.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. April 20, 2008 3:39 pm

    i’ve gotta laugh. we hate radishes (had 125 of them in last year’s harvest) and even dedicated a couple of posts to how much we hate them (they were the easter egg types), and just today i started typing a post on how much i hate mayo. :D lovely pic.

  2. Lynne permalink
    April 20, 2008 5:10 pm

    Your photos of the radishes are wonderful! I happen to be a mayonnaise lover and will certainly try making my own now. I love the idea of adding herbs as well. Thank you, this is a lovely springtime post!

  3. April 20, 2008 8:38 pm

    Such pretty photos! I’m not a huge radish fan, but I’ve been seeing them pop up in blogs, so I guess I’ll give them another chance.

  4. April 20, 2008 10:00 pm

    You must be reading my mind. I’ve been looking for a good herb mayonnaise recipe all afternoon. This sounds perfect!

  5. April 20, 2008 10:22 pm

    Well done on conquering you fears for radishes and mayo. I must say though that the radishes in you picture are soooo beautiful.

  6. April 21, 2008 10:19 am

    I love homemade mayo, so delicious! Radishes are another story, though I’ve never tasted those spring radishes, they might change my taste! :) Lovely photos!

  7. alexisthetiny permalink
    April 21, 2008 10:52 am

    That mayo looks beautiful. Japanese mayo looks exactly like the one you made and it’s so different from the white horror other mayos are. I love mayo, even the white stuff, but have to admit I would rather eat Japanese or homemade mayos. And the photography is gorgeous. What kind of camera do you use?

  8. April 21, 2008 7:24 pm

    Nice. Those radishes even might make a radish-hater like me come around. Mostly because they’re so cute and pretty. Homemade mayo? I suppose I’ll get around to that too one of these days.

  9. April 22, 2008 9:34 pm

    I am an avid hater of mayo but I wonder if the homemade kind would appeal to me more? You and all your homemade things. Gracious! Wish you were my neighbor!

  10. April 23, 2008 9:31 am

    Oh, how wonderful this looks. Nothing like a radish with even plain salt. Love the mayonnaise. Looks delightful. Thanks….

  11. parsnipsaplenty permalink
    April 27, 2008 12:35 pm

    You and I have been on the same journey! I love making up a batch of homemade mayonnaise, now, but hardly ever touched the stuff on the grocery shelves. Radishes… I’m still working on it. Capers, too.

  12. April 5, 2009 12:57 am

    Thanks to you and your enthusiasm (and your link from the ketchup post), I made homemade mayonnaise. SO FREAKIN GOOD!! Thanks Amy!!

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