Dining on Dandelions: Known as lion's tooth

Dining on Dandelions: Known as lion's tooth, fairy clock, and blowball, this dandy weed adds a savory touch to the most gourmet of dishes

Dining on Dandelions: Known as lion's tooth, fairy clock, and blowball, this dandy weed adds a savory touch to the most gourmet of dishes.

Who can forget the simple childhood pleasure of wishing on a gray-haired dandelion while blowing its seedlings into the wind? And who can forget the arduous task of uprooting those same golden-tressed weeds from your garden? Now you can turn that drudgery into delight by bringing those delicious, nutritious greens to your dining table.

Originally from central Asia, dandelions have long been esteemed by medical herbalists for their valuable healing properties. Natural diuretics (the French word for dandelion is pissenlit, or "wet the bed") and blood cleansers, the leaves and roots are used in the treatment of liver and kidney ailments, arthritic conditions, and ache; the plant's bitter quality stimulates digestion. Dandelions are nutritional powerhouses, providing more vitamin A than any other green, as well as C and B, iron, calcium, and potassium.

Our great-grandmothers had the luxury of picking wild dandelion leaves for their salads and spring tonics that were free of pesticides, herbicides, and nonorganic fertilizers. In this age of the perfectly manicured lawn, a natural foods grocer or Italian market is probably your safest source (see sidebar for harvesting your own). Such stores tend to carry cultivated dandelion greens year-round, with best availability from spring through late autumn. While not as tender and considerably bigger than the tiny wild greens, cultivated dandelions are very respectable relations.

Dandelion and Wildflower Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette

Serves 4

Rhapsodic describes this summer salad from Canada. While Canadians use their native fiddleheads and fireweed, the asparagus and spinach called for in this American adaptation are stellar stand-ins.

1. 2 pound fresh, pencil-thin asparagus, trimmed
2. cup young dandelion leaves, washed, trimmed, and torn
3. cup young beet leaves, washed, trimmed, and torn
4. cup young spinach leaves, washed, trimmed, and torn
5. cup watercress, washed
6. 2 cup arugula, washed and torn
7. small red leaf lettuce, washed and torn

edible flowers (preferably organically grown) such as borage, calendula, nasturtium, pansies, roses, violets, day lilies, or chive flowers, freshly picked and washed

1. Tbsp. raspberry vinegar
2. Tbsp. freshly squeezed orange juice
3. Tbsp. water
4. 2 Tbsp. walnut oil
5. 2 Tbsp. olive oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp. sugar

Cut the asparagus crosswise on a slight diagonal into 1 1/2-inch lengths. In a large pot of boiling water, cook until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes; remove from heat and drain. Plunge into ice water to refresh, then drain well. In a large bowl, mix drained asparagus with other salad greens and flowers. In a small pouring cup, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Pour over salad, toss well, and serve.

Dandelion and Mesclun Salad with Chèvre Croutons

Serves 4

Broiled chèvre (goat cheese) croutons atop a bed of mixed greens turn this ordinary salad into a savory light lunch or an impressive first course. Swap the chèvre for garlic-scented croutons for an equally satisfying vegan dish.

* 8 1/2-inch slices of baguette, cut into quarters
* 2 oz. creamy chèvre at room temperature
* 2 oz. reduced-fat ricotta cheese at room temperature
* 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
* 2 1/2 tsp. olive oil, preferably extra-virgin
* 1 tsp. chopped fresh basil

pinch of freshly ground black pepper

1. 4 cup tarragon vinegar
2. Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
3. 1/2 Tbsp. water
4. Tbsp. chopped fresh green onion, white and green parts
5. 2 tsp. sugar
6. 4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
7. cup young dandelion leaves, trimmed and torn into bite-size bits
8. cups mesclun, or a combination of oakleaf, arugula, bibb, lamb's lettuce, frisee, watercress, radicchio, Belgian endive, and/or young spinach

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lay quartered slices of bread on a baking sheet and toast lightly, about 4 minutes, taking care not to dry out. Remove from oven and set aside. Combine chèvre and ricotta cheeses, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of the olive oil, basil, and black pepper in a small bowl; mash well with a fork. Using a small butter knife, spread cheese mixture onto tops and sides of croutons and return them to the baking sheet. Turn oven to broil. Place croutons under broiler and lightly brown until the cheese starts to bubble. Remove and keep warm.

In a small jar, combine tarragon vinegar, parsley, water, green onion, sugar, remaining 2 teaspoons of olive oil, and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper; cover tightly and shake vigorously to blend. Toss the greens with the vinaigrette and divide among four salad plates. Garnish with warm croutons and serve immediately.

Potato-Dandelion Vichyssoise

Serves 4

The natural affinity of dandelion greens and potatoes is apparent in the first spoonful of this luscious soup. Serve warm as a comforting main course on a chilly spring evening or cold as an elegant start to a summer gathering.

1. large leek, white part only, finely chopped
2. small onion, finely chopped
3. shallot, finely chopped
4. Tbsp. canola oil
5. lb. all-purpose potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
6. cups vegetable broth
7. 2 lb. young dandelion leaves, washed, stemmed, and torn
8. tsp. salt
9. 4 cup skim milk
10. 4 cup light cream or half-and-half pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (or more to taste)

salt and freshly ground black or white pepper

* 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh chives
* 1/2 cup buttermilk, nonfat plain yogurt, or nonfat sour cream (if serving chilled)

In a large stockpot, sauté leek, onion, and shallot in the oil over medium heat until tender, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Add potatoes and toss to combine. Stir in broth, bring to a boil over high heat, and add torn dandelion leaves and salt. Immediately reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.

Leaving about half the cooking liquids in the pot, process the soup mixture in a food processor fitted with the knife blade using on/off motions until the solids are finely chopped. (Do not puree to smooth consistency.) Return processed mixture to remaining liquids and stir to combine.

Stir in the skim milk and light cream or half-and-half; heat the soup through, taking care not to boil. Season with a pinch or more of nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or chilled, garnished with the chopped chives. If soup is to be served chilled, add the buttermilk, yogurt, or sour cream just before serving.

Dandelion and Mixed Vegetable Cheese Spread

Serves 8 as appetizer

Inspired by a classic French side dish, this delicious melange makes an appetizing spread or dip.

1. lb. dandelion leaves, washed and trimmed
2. lb. Belgian endives (about 4), washed and trimmed of thick white core
3. lb. spinach, washed and trimmed
4. 4 lb. watercress (about one bunch), leaves only, washed
5. small onion, peeled and thinly sliced
6. tsp. canola oil
7. oz. reduced-fat (light) rondele cheese, preferably the garlic-herb variety
8. oz. nonfat cream cheese
9. oz. canned plain artichoke hearts, rinsed well and drained thoroughly

vegetable spray

warm baguette slices or bread sticks

Blanch the first four ingredients separately in rapidly boiling water until tender; drain well between paper towels. In a medium nonstick skillet, sauté the onion in the oil over medium heat until tender, about 5 minutes, stirring often. Place the blanched vegetables, sautéed onions, and drained artichokes in a food processor fitted with the knife blade; process with on/off motions until finely chopped but not pureed. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium saucepan, heat the two cheeses over low temperature, stirring occasionally, until smooth; mix well. Remove from heat, and fold in pureed vegetable mixture.

Spread the combined vegetable and cheese mixture in a shallow baking dish lightly coated with vegetable spray. Bake on center rack of preheated oven for 15 minutes, or until slightly golden but not browned. Serve immediately with warm baguette slices or bread sticks. For a delicious variation, use this spread as a filling for broiled stuffed mushroom caps.

Rice with Dandelion, Pinenuts, and Raisins

Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish, 2 to 3 as a main course

The sweetness of the Catalan trio of rice, pinenuts, and raisins takes the edge off the bitter bite of barely cooked (and therefore healthier) dandelion greens.

1. large clove of garlic, finely chopped
2. Tbsp. olive oil, preferably extra-virgin
3. 4 cup pinenuts
4. 3 cup dark raisins
5. 2 lb. young dandelion leaves, washed, trimmed, and cut into very thin strips, crosswise
6. cups cooked white rice (as hot as possible)

In a large nonstick skillet, sauté the garlic in the olive oil over medium heat for 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low, and add the pinenuts and raisins; cook until pinenuts are golden and raisins have plumped, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the dandelion strips and cook another 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the cooked rice and toss well to combine; heat through if necessary. Serve immediately.

Potatoes Mashed with Dandelion, Garlic, and Cheese

Serves 4 as a side dish, 2 as a main course

This version of truffade, a homey dish from the Savoie mountain region of France, uses dandelion instead of the traditional spinach.

1. 1/2 lbs. all-purpose potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
2. tsp. salt
3. 2 lb. young dandelion leaves, washed and trimmed
4. large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
5. 4 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
6. 4 cup shredded, reduced-fat Swiss cheese

salt and ground black pepper

Place potatoes in a large saucepan, cover with cold water, and add salt. Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Drain. Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling water, blanch dandelion leaves until tender, about 3 minutes. Drain well, chop, and squeeze between several changes of paper towels to get rid of excess moisture. Using a potato masher or fork (do not use a food processor or blender), mash the potatoes in a large bowl; they should remain slightly lumpy. With a large spoon, mix in the dandelion, garlic, and cheese. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Serve immediately. This dish can be reheated in the microwave or kept in a warming oven for 1 hour. For best results, do not refrigerate.

Vermicelli Nests with Chickpeas, Dandelion, and Tomato

Serves 6 as main course

The virtually raw sauce of this dish -- a version of the French palourdes en nids, or "clams in nests" -- can also be spooned over rice, couscous, or vegetables.

* 2 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
* 1 Tbsp. olive oil, preferably extra-virgin
* 1 15 oz. can chickpeas, rinsed well and drained
* 1 cup dry white wine
* 2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves or 1 tsp. dried
* 1/2 lb. young dandelion leaves, washed, trimmed and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch strips
* 1 lb. plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped

pinch of sugar

freshly ground black pepper

12 oz. vermicelli, capellini, or spaghettini, cooked

In a large nonstick skillet, sauté the garlic in the olive oil over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the chickpeas and toss with the garlic. Pour in the wine and add the thyme. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add the dandelion leaves, tomatoes, and sugar; toss and remove from the heat. Set aside until tomatoes are just warm to the touch. Season with fleshly ground pepper.

Arrange the cooked pasta in small piles in the bottom of four pasta or soup bowls. Divide the chickpea and vegetable mixture among the bowls. Pour remaining broth over all and serve immediately.

Sautéed Dandelion Flowers

Serves 6

When early settlers weren't gathering dandelion blossoms to brew into wine to see them through the harsh winter, they were collecting them to cook as fresh vegetables before their cultivated summer crops could be harvested. A modern New Englander might serve sauteed dandelion blossoms as a special side dish.

* 2 cups clean, freshly picked, unsprayed dandelion flowers, preferably organically grown
* 2 Tbsp. canola oil
* 2 Tbsp. butter
* 1 egg plus 2 egg whites, lightly beaten

flour for dredging

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Do not wash dandelion flowers or they will close. Make sure they are clean when picked. Heat canola oil and butter in a large skillet. Dip each flower into egg mixture, then into flour; sauté briefly in the oil and butter over medium heat, turning gently to evenly cook. Season with salt and pepper, and serve immediately.

Yoga Journal L.L.C.


By Donna M. Klein

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