Monday, February 28, 2011

Experiments With New Foods: Dandelion Greens

Dandelion greens are something that I've been aware of, but never encountered myself (aside from the ones messing up the back yard!) From Ray Bradbury's "Dandelion Wine" to settler's stories read as a kid, I'd always known you could eat them, but not the methods of preparation.

Now that spring is here, there are many kinds of greens and veggies to be found at the farmer's market, and some of them may be new to you. I decided to take the plunge and buy some dandelion greens, since neither my husband or I had ever tasted them. I searched my cookbooks, to no avail, and then turned to the internet for ideas. I found a recipe from Emeril Lagasse, and they turned out pretty good!

Dandelion greens are very bitter. I mean, kale and mustard greens are bitter, and dandelion greens go way beyond that! I liked this recipe because the white beans gave a mellowing balance to the greens, and the bacon (I subbed for pancetta) contributed a smoky, Southern feel. It came together quickly and (aside from the bacon fat) was quite healthy.

I highly recommend experimenting with new ingredients. You might be surprised and find a new favorite flavor. Worst case scenario, you don't like it - it's just one dish. In our case, we liked them, but won't be planting our own soon ... or trying to graze on the ones in the backyard.

Garlic-Braised Dandelion Greens with White Bean Puree and Crispy Pancetta
(recipe courtesy of Emeril Lagasse, via

  • 3 cups cooked white beans, drained
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 ounces pancetta, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 pound fresh young dandelion greens, tough ends trimmed, well washed
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • chopped parsley and thyme, for serving
  • kosher salt, for serving
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges, for serving
  1. In a food processor, combine the beans, 1/4 cup of the chicken broth and 6 tablespoons of the olive oil and process until mostly smooth, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl as necessary. Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside, covered at room temperature, until ready to serve.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the pancetta. Cook, stirring occasionally, until crispy and all of the fat has been rendered, 3 to 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to a paper lined plate to drain and set aside. Reduce the heat to low and allow rendered fat to cool slightly. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper and cook, stirring, until garlic is lightly golden around the edges, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the greens and remaining chicken broth and cover the pan. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook 1 to 2 minutes, until greens are wilted. Uncover the pan and add the sugar and salt to taste. Stir to thoroughly combine. Cover the pan and continue to cook until the greens are tender, 5 to 10 minutes longer. The greens may be served warm or at room temperature.
  3. When ready to serve, divide the bean puree evenly among 6 appetizer plates. Divide the greens among the plates, arranging them around the bean puree. Drizzle each plate with 1 tablespoon of the remaining olive oil and a pinch of chopped parsley and thyme, and a pinch of the kosher salt. Divide the reserved crispy pancetta evenly among the plates and serve each plate with a lemon wedge.

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