Wednesday, February 13, 2013

let the dandelion shine


Sometimes I see an ingredient at the store, and all of a sudden envision myself throwing a lavish dinner party for 24 people.  Seriously, who needs more than one bunch of dandelion greens when she knows fairly confidently that she'll be eating it all herself? I surely don't, but apparently my brain thought otherwise.  That being said, I definitely needed to do SOMETHING with these greens...something epically delicious that I could eat for the next 12 consecutive meals no less.  In tandem, I also picked up a bunch of Meyer lemons that I was planning on preserving, but the ingredient somehow managed to sneak it's way into this salad....we'll see if any make it to the preserving process!

Greens like dandelion are sometimes tricky to deal with, considering the bitterness that they impart, so you have to be pretty careful as to what you pair with them.  Obviously, cooking removes some of the bitterness, but I wanted to stray as far away from cooked greens as possible this time around - I needed a more refreshing take! Brainstorming ensued and the resulting salad came out! I've currently had it for three meals in a row.  It's a winner.

Dandelion Greens in a Bagna Cauda Vinaigrette, Meyer Lemon, Poached Egg
1 bunch dandelion greens, majority of the stem discarded, roughly chopped
1/2 c olive oil
3 T minced garlic
6 anchovy fillets (preferably in oil)
1-2 T butter
4 eggs
1 Meyer lemon - for the record any citrus on hand works here!
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted


Alright, so the most labor intensive part of this recipe is frankly to make the vinaigrette - and that sure as heck isn't all that hard!  Either way, hop to it.  In a small saucepan, heat up the olive oil and garlic over low heat.  When the oil is hot, but not bubbling - don't let it smoke - toss in the anchovies.  They should almost melt in the oil after a few seconds.  Stir and cook until the anchovy fillets have completely broken down and remove from heat.  Whisk in the butter and reserve.

To cook your eggs, you have to figure out some way to poach them! Do you have a an immersion centrifuge that can cook your egg to a perfect 63 degrees like all the fancy restaurants? Make it happen.  I sadly don't and can't recreate that.  So instead, you can use the old vinegar in the water, egg tossed in while vigorously stirring to create a vortex, hope for the best method, OR you can use this super easy method.  Bring water to a boil, and cook the eggs in the shell for 5:40 seconds.  Drain, rinse under cold water (so you don't burn yourself) and remove the shells.  Easy peasy! (Obviously, one of, if not my actual favorite way to cook eggs.) 


To bring it all together, place the walnuts and dandelion greens into a large salad bowl.  Spoon a good amount of dressing (don't forget the garlic and anchovy!) over the greens and toss well.  Do this in increment amounts because you don't want to over dress your greens.   Divide evenly between four plates. Nestle one poached egg amongst the greens, finishing it with a little fresh ground black pepper.   Next, zest the Meyer lemon over each dish, being sure to get on the greens and the egg, and finish with a small squeeze of lemon juice over each.  

Devour. (Sidebar: I also used red watercress and red walnuts in this photographed salad..why not?

This dish is so good, and keeps getting better until the last bite! The flavor of the dandelion greens come through despite all the strong flavors in the dish - leaving them raw allows for this. The bagna cauda vinaigrette adds a nice salinity to it, while balanced out by the greens' bitterness.  All of it is brought together with the poached egg, which creates kind of a satiny sauce, brightened by the sweetness and acidity of the Meyer lemon.  Definite salad for the win! I also found out, post-recipe, while researching bagna cauda (yes that happens) that the OG recipe actually used walnut products for economic reasons:

"The first versions of bagna càuda were most likely made with the region’s rich walnut oil, from the mature walnut groves that used to be found throughout Piedmont and the Val d’Aosta. After vast areas were largely deforested, olive oil too had to be imported from Liguria. Although olive oil and butter now serve as the base of bagna càuda, some families crush a few roasted walnuts into the sauce to remember the ancient flavor of the dish." (Source: Zester Daily)



Like it! So, at first, this dish may seem a little daunting because of all the out-there components, but it is well worth it.  Once you have your first bite, you'll wonder why your portion isn't double the size!