I have, in recent weeks, formed a voracious hunger for dandelion greens.
I think that dandelion greens are something of an enigma. When I am working at the farmers market and those proud little red stemmed leaves are on the table, people either go straight for them (only a few people, that is), or they entirely pass over them. It is confusing as to why one would pay 2 dollars a bunch for a thing that grows so wildly and uninvited through the yard. And even if you are not confused, perhaps you are not a bitter greens kind of person.
Bitter does not seem to be much of an American flavor. I think that we go for the sweet vegetables around here: carrots, gentle lettuces, candy-like beets, cucumbers. The bitter greens like radicchio, endive, broccoli raab, and dandelion are only for those who love the extremity of the flavor, for those of us who sucked on lemons or ate entire jars of hot peppers as a child.
I have been told all sorts of wonderful things about dandelion and its bitter sisters. That the nutritional values are far higher than most vegetables. That the more bitter the green, the more aid it provides to digestion. That there is nothing like a bitter green to give a wonderful health boost to your liver. But I love the bitter greens for the particular way that they balance other elements. Their flavor is extreme, yes, but it makes others pop and blend in a symphony that I crave through the early Spring. These days, I can't get over the affair between the dandelion green and a runny-yellow-crispy-white egg.
A word on the dandelion. Of course dandelion greens grow aside their prolific flowers, but by the time the flower has arrived, the green is (if you can believe it) just too bitter to eat. Right now, the dandelion greens should be small enough to be delicious, and so if foraging is your thing, go out and do it. However, dandelion greens are also available at many supermarkets and most Spring farmers markets, and the varieties that you will find there have been cultivated for their flavor. Try both and see what you think. Wild dandelion greens are free and numerous, and it's hard to beat that. I find that I love the purple stemmed dandelion green most of all, and it is far more exotic that the green taking over my backyard.
Dandelion greens are wonderful raw, and you can chop them and mix them with lettuce to infuse your salad with depth and balance. Many recipes will lead you to a quick wilt in hot oil, and this is good too. David Lebovitz grinds them into a pesto, and I think this would be brilliant. As soon as I can get over these eggs, that might come next. If I can get over these eggs. We'll see.
Dandelion Greens with Dill and a Crispy Egg
2 tablespoons olive oil
hefty pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 bunch dandelion greens (about 8 stems), the lower tough part of the stem removed, greens roughly chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
salt and pepper
Heat the oil over medium/high heat in a saute pan. Add the red pepper flakes to the oil, then the dandelion greens. Toss the greens in the hot oil for about 20 seconds, or until they just begin to wilt. Transfer the greens to a bowl. Crack the egg into the pan, adding a bit more oil if it seems like you need to. Fry the egg until it is crispy around the edges and runny in the center. Gently place the egg over the greens. Top with the dill, salt, and pepper.