Earlier in the summer, a friend and I talked about how we aren't nervy enough to pull up dandelions from our yard and toss the greens in a salad, even when the weeds are safe from stray dogs and the TruGreen man. I remembered this exchange when I spotted organic dandelion greens for $2.99 at Fresh Market, sandwiched between the cilantro and Napa cabbage. I grabbed two bunches.
Did I feel absurd spending six dollars on weeds that most homeowners work tirelessly to eradicate from their lawns? Yes, of course I did. But dandelions are a power house of nutrition, loaded with protein, fiber, calcium, beta-carotene, and more potassium than any other green. Plus, on the way home, I couldn't help but admire the initiative of a California grower (Cal-Organic Farms) selling weed that is legal for everyone.
Deciding how to cook the first batch was easy. I cut off the stems but not the center veins, cleaned them in the salad spinner (it took three rinses for the water to stay clean), chopped them into strips, and then sauteed the dandelions in the same way I do kale or Swiss chard: garlic, olive oil, a few splashes of vinegar, the juice of a fresh lemon, and sea salt. The dandelions were good, but not great, with a distinctive and slightly bitter after taste.
The next day, I consulted a stack of cookbooks for suggestions and went with "Shredded Salad of Many Greens" by Deborah Madison that called for shredded dandelions, along with an assortment of other greens that taste best when eaten together. Tossed with a simple lemon and oil dressing, the peppery crunch of the salad was a nice break from spring mix, and the delicious blend was beautiful in the bowl.
The greens I selected are listed below, but any mix of red leaf lettuce, spinach, endive, escarole, or sorrel will do, as long as you don't forget the dandelions.
Shredded Salad of Many Greens ( Adapted from Local Flavors by Deborah Madison)
3 small heads shredded radicchio
2 cups shredded Napa cabbage
2 cups shredded romaine
2 cup slivered dandelion greens
½ cup flat leaf parsley
1 shallot, finely diced
Fresh juice from one lemon, plus 1 teaspoon grated zest
4 to 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons wine vinegar
Sea salt and pepperWash, dry and shred all the greens, then toss them together in a bowl. Mix the shallot, lemon juice, zest, salt and pepper. Add vinegar, then whisk in oil. Adjust oil, lemon, and vinegar ratio to taste.Toss the greens with a few more pinches of salt, then with the dressing. Mound onto plates and serve four.
An internet search will yield lots of other recipes, including this recipe for "Warm Dandelion Greens and Bacon" on the Cal-Organic site.