Radishes with soft butter and cumin, fennel and smoky paprika salts

The French love to eat radishes dipped in sweet butter and salt.

  • 3 t cumin seeds
  • 2 t fennel seeds
  • 2 c sea salt or kosher salt (large crystal), divided into ½ c portions
  • 2 t fine-ground smoked paprika
  • 1½ t cayenne pepper
  • 24 medium radishes, trimmed (leaving a bit of stalk as a handle)
  • ½ c (8 T or 1 stick) unsalted butter softened, in a serving bowl

Toast cumin seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat, shaking pan continuously until aromatic, about 4 minutes. Do not over-toast. Grind in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder until broken up but slightly chunky still, not a fine powder. Repeat with fennel seeds. Mix the smoked paprika and cayenne powder together and pour into a small serving bowl.

In a small mixing bowl, stir ground fennel into half of the salt; then place in a small serving bowl. Repeat with cumin and the paprika/cayenne powder mixture, wiping out the mixing bowl between each batch. Pour the remaining salt into another serving bowl.

To serve: arrange radishes on a platter and surround with the four bowls of fennel, cumin, smoked pepper and plain salt, along with the soft butter. Dip radish into the butter, then into one of the salts.

Serves 6-12 as a pass-around appetizer.