Thursday, March 20, 2008

Dreaming of Dandelions

The ground is still covered in snow, but spring is just around the corner - in fact, it's literally here in just two days! I'm dreaming of the first fresh wild greens in our yard - nettles, purslane, and dandelions...which start to poke out their leaves in the next few weeks.

All parts of the dandelion are edible, and have long been used for medicinal and culinary uses. Dandelions are liver tonics, best taken in the spring when our overburdened winter livers need a good toning and cleansing. The roots can be steamed, sauteed or fried, or dried and used as tea (great with chickory root); the leaves fresh or steamed in salads, spanikopita, and stir-fries; the flowers battered or chopped into salads, even made into drinks (dandelion wine) or icecream! The leaves are rich in potassium, antioxidants and vitamins A and C. Harvest leaves and flowers when small and tender, generally mid-April to end of May, so they are not too bitter - and remember that urban harvesting should be done carefully in non-sprayed, non-toxic areas (and away from dog walking zones too).

Here are some recipes taken from the latest Mother Earth News, featuring dandelions as the main ingredient!

Wilted Dandelion Salad
1 block firm tofu, cubed and marinated, then fried until crisp
1 small red onion, diced
2 tsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp cider vinegar
1 bunch dandelion greens, wash and dried, stems removed
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Fry tofu in skillet until crisp. Add onion and stir in sugar and cider vinegar. Pour hot dressing over the greens, tossing greens so as to coat them with dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Dandelion Salad with Fresh Goat Cheese and Apples
2 Tbsp cider vinegar
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp honey
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 bunch dandelion greens, washed and dried, stems removed
1/4 lb fresh white goat cheese, crumbled into pieces
1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped and dry roasted (if desired)
1 apple, cored and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces

Whisk vinegar, oil, mustard, honey, salt and pepper together. Pour over greens and toss lightly. Top with goat cheese, nuts and apples.

Dandelion & Mushroom Calzone
3 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 lb mushrooms (shiitake is best), sliced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 bunch dandelion greens, washed and dried, stems removed
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 lb whole wheat pizza dough
1/2 lb mozzarella cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 500F (or fire up your outdoor cob oven, as we do for best pizza results!). In large skillet heat 2 Tbsp oil. Add mushrooms and garlic, and cook overmoderately high heat, stirring occasionally until mushrooms begin to brown. Add dandelion greens and cook until wilted, stirring occasionally, about 2-3 minutes. Season with salt nad pepper and set aside.

On lightly floured surface, roll or stretch out dough to form two 10 inch rounds. Transfer dough rounds to floured baking sheet or pizza pan. Sprinkle a layer of shredded cheese on half of each round, leaving 1 inch border. Add dandelion and mushroom mixture to the cheese layer, and top with remaining shredded cheese. Fold the dough over to enclose the filling, forming a half circle. Press and crimp the edges together to seal. Using a knife, poke a hold or two in the top. Brush calzones with 1 Tbsp olive oil. Bake for 11 minutes or until calzones are crisp and turning golden. Cut them in half and serve hot.

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