For most of us, dandelions are obnoxious weeds. They’re something to be pulled, yanked and banished from well-manicured lawns.
But consider this: Their leaves are edible and according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, they’re full of vitamins A, B, C and D as well as minerals such as iron, potassium and zinc. “Dandelion greens top all fruits and vegetables for iron content,” according to Al Shay, instructor in the horticulture department at Oregon State University. You can use them in most in recipes that call for spinach, he said.
Just take care not to eat dandelions from your lawn if you use pesticide. Also, as dandelions get older, their leaves get more bitter, so the youngest leaves have the mildest flavor, Shay said.
Through the ages, dandelions have also been used as herbal remedies. Native Americans used them to treat kidney disease, swelling, skin problems and upset stomach, according to UMMC. The Chinese use them to treat stomach problems, appendicitis and inflammation of the breast or lack of milk flow. Europeans used them as a remedy for fever, boils, eye problems, diabetes and diarrhea, according to UMMC.
And if you haven’t noticed, a fresh crop has popped up in the neighborhood grocery store aisle.
Last weekend while shopping at Roth’s Vista market, I spotted bunches of dandelion greens beckoning from the misted shelves in the produce section. I’ve also seen them at LifeSource.
Since I was in a spring mood, I thought what a better way to reflect the season than to come up with a couple of ways to use these greens, with their slightly bracing bitter flavor, in some recipes.
Here are two simple recipes that mask the bitter flavor of the greens. If you don’t mind bitter, you can simply use the younger greens mixed with mesclun mix in a salad. Just remember that the older the leaves are, the more bitter they will taste.
Three Cheese Tortellini with Dandelion Pesto
- 6 ounces dandelion greens, rinsed, chopped and spun dry in a salad spinner
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- ½ cup grated Parmesan and Romano cheese
- 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 package Buitoni three cheese tortellini
- In a food processor, process dandelion greens, pine nuts, grated cheese, chopped garlic and Kosher salt until the greens are finely chopped. Slowly drizzle the olive oil into the food processor while running, stopping to scrape down the sides and process again until the mixture reaches the consistency of pesto.
- Place pesto in bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Boil tortellini according to package directions and drain pot. Add enough pesto to hot pasta in pot to thoroughly coat pasta and toss. Transfer to serving bowl and serve while hot.
- Remaining pesto can be refrigerated for up to a week and used in other dishes.
Dandelion and Mushroom Lasagna
- 9 lasagna sheets, cooked according to package directions
- 8 ounces baby portabella or porcini mushrooms, sliced
- 4 ounces dandelion greens, washed, coarsely chopped and spun dry in a salad spinner
- 2 eggs
- 32 ounce container of part-skim ricotta cheese
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella
- 1 cup grated Parmesan and Romano cheese
- 1 24 ounce jar of Newman’s Own Sockarooni pasta sauce
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Place a small amount of pasta sauce on bottom of 8-by-8-inch square baking dish to prevent pasta from sticking.
- Line with 1 layer of pasta and use kitchen scissors to trim excess and discard.
- In a bowl, combine ricotta cheese and 2 eggs and mix with spatula until eggs are thoroughly incorporated.
- Layer sliced mushrooms on top of lasagna and then spread half of the ricotta mixture over the mushrooms. Sprinkle a third of mozzarella and grated Parmesan and Romano cheese on top.
- Add another layer of lasagna and trim off excess.
- Spread chopped dandelion greens on top of lasagna and spread remaining ricotta cheese over the greens. Sprinkle a third of mozzarella and grated Parmesan and Romano cheese on top. Spread half of the pasta sauce on top.
- Add final layer of lasagna and spread remaining pasta sauce on top. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
- Remove foil and sprinkle remaining mozzarella and grated Parmesan and Romano cheese on top and bake another 15 minutes until cheese is thoroughly melted and serve.
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