kitchen firsts: dandelion greens (in a salad with prosciutto, bleu cheese and candied walnuts with white wine vinaigrette)
Dandelion greens?? Are these not the same greens that tormented me as a child, always sprouting back up two days after my painstaking efforts to rid the lawn of the little buggers? My dad used to pay me a nickel for every dandelion I pulled from the grass, but despite the bribery I never associated them with a good honest days’ pay, but instead with torturous, never-ending chores, the bane of my young existence.
And yet, dandelion greens seem to be enjoying a vegetable renaissance in recent times, maybe because of the foodie cred involved in finding under-appreciated produce and claiming that you’ve unlocked its secret deliciousness. Or perhaps I just was not tuned into the food world enough before to notice that they were being eaten. Or, (secret option #3) could the dandelions’ recent popularity be due, actually, to some real culinary merit?
I have to admit that the previous me would’ve been entirely skeptical about the idea of using dandelions as the main green in a salad, but I recently encountered them a few times in the form of an appetizer made by a friend and was pleasantly surprised. The appetizer had bleu cheese, nuts, and a dandelion green or two rolled up in prosciutto, and I found the greens really tasty in that context, so I thought I’d turn those same flavors around, make the greens the focus, and amp it up to a main course salad.
The first thing we did when we got the greens home was to taste them as is, fresh and plain. I thought they tasted like a slightly bitter Romaine, with a similar spiciness to arugula. Personally, I’m not a crazy fan of the spicier greens, so I wasn’t initially impressed, but we reserved judgment until the whole thing came together. I knew I wanted to hearken to the appetizer’s flavors by adding prosciutto, crumbled bleu cheese, and candied walnuts to the salad, so we tossed those in with the greens. To dress the salad, I did a white wine vinaigrette which we thought complemented the other flavors well.
Final verdict? I thought the overall effect of the salad was really tasty, and would definitely make it again. That said, next time I might mix up the greens a little bit– I’d still use dandelion greens if some were available, but maybe mix them in with some arugula, or maybe even some romaine.
Oh yeah, and Stephen’s reaction upon tasting the salad? “Pretty good for a weed.”
Dandelion Green Salad with Prosciutto, Bleu Cheese, Candied Walnuts, and White Wine Vinaigrette
Serves 2 as a main course, 4 as an accompaniment
1 bunch dandelion greens, washed, trimmed and roughly torn or chopped
1/3 cup bleu cheese crumbles
6-8 slices prosciutto, chiffonaded like basil (rolled up and thinly sliced, then unrolled into curls)
1/4 cup candied walnuts, chopped
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onions
White Wine Vinaigrette
Adapted from Giada de Laurentiis, via Food Network
2 T white wine vinegar (or 2 T white wine, plus extra lemon juice)
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp honey
Juice of half a lemon, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
First make your dressing: whisk all ingredients except olive oil together in a small bowl, then whisk olive oil in in a slow stream (you can also do this in a blender or dressing shaker). Adjust seasoning, lemon juice, mustard and honey flavors to taste. To assemble the salad, toss the washed and chopped greens with the dressing, then add bleu cheese, walnuts, and prosciutto and onions and toss. Serve.