Every time I leave the city and stay somewhere with a lawn, the homeowner usually spends some part of every day cursing the dandelions. I've often stood in a yard and gazed at them, wondering why we spoiled Americans choose to ignore something that's edible, plentiful, full of all sorts of good nutrients (apparently, most parts of the plant have a beneficial use), and grows despite our best efforts to kill it. If we thought of dandelions as food, not weeds, wouldn't that be cause for less grumbling?
And why don't I just take it upon myself to harvest the dandelions I spy? Well, generally, when I ask if the lawn's been chemically-treated, it's usually, sadly, yes. If I had a house, I'd go for an all-organic lawn that I could harvest for dinner. Makes sense to me.
So yesterday, at Chelsea Market, when I spied a bunch of dandelion leaves for a low, low price (though it's ridiculous I even paid for them--shouldn't we be paid for using them?), I decided I'd make a purchase. I hadn't had them in years, and since I still had some leftover asparagus/leek/ramp dressing, I thought I'd try a salad experiment.
Unfortunately, these particular dandelions were so potent that, as a dinner salad, it was like a bitter punch in the face. They were large and beautiful, but I think too mature to be eaten raw in large amounts. I think I'll cook the rest of them, and use younger leaves in future salads.
But I think, in general, dandelions could be the heart of a great side salad.
Springtime Dandelion Salad
A large handful of dandelion leaves
2 or 3 stalks of young asparagus
2 or 3 ramps
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp. olive oil
hot pepper oil or flakes (to taste)
salt and freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
1/4 cup roughly chopped sautéed mushrooms
1 tbsp. crumbled goat cheese or feta
1/4 cup shredded cooked chicken (optional)
Wash dandelion, discard tough stems, and roughly chop leaves. Cut asparagus stems and ramps (bulbs, stems, and leaves) into thin slices (save asparagus tips. Either sauté quickly and add to salad, or save for another use). In a serving bowl, toss dandelion, asparagus, and ramps with lemon juice, olive oil, hot pepper oil, salt, and pepper. Add mushrooms, cheese, and chicken. Serve.