One of my favorite PBS radio programs is The Splendid Table with Lynne Rossetto Kasper. I can't decide what I love more about the show - the wonderful recipes and call-in advice she gives, or her voice. Lynne's voice smiles - which makes me smile. No matter the subject, her passion inspires me (and all of her other listeners, I'm sure) to try new food and recipes. If ever there was a reason to support public radio funding, this is one of the best - that's my plug and I'm sticking to it.
So last weekend while cooking, smiling and listening to her show on WBUR, she offered up a quick and elegant recipe on Dandelion and Caramelized Carrot Salad that I knew I had to try. Many thanks to Lynne and The Splendid Table - I can't wait to hear what you do next week!
Now the next time you look out your window and see a field of much maligned dandelions, don't despair! Smile and pick yourself a few handfuls of these lovely, baby bitter greens for dinner. You'll truly be eating off your land, even if you don't have a garden, and you'll be glad you did.
Dandelion and Caramelized Carrot Salad with Toasted Pine Nuts and Feta Cheese (Recipe Adapted from Lynne Rosetto Kasper)
4 large handfuls (1 to 1-1/4 pounds) of dandilion leaves or other tart greens, thoroughly washed and spun dry
1/2 to 2/3 cup toasted pine nuts
12 ounces fresh feta cheese
4 to 5 tablespoons red or white wine or sherry vinegar
1 generous tablespoon dark grainy mustard
1/3 cup minced sweet Vidalia onions
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
The oil from the caramelized carrots and more if needed
4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into thin strips about 3-inches by 1/16 inches
6 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 to 3 generous pinches of sugar
Heat the greens on individual plates. Scatter with the nuts and crumbled feta cheese.
For the pine nuts, heat the oven to 350 degrees. Scatter pine nuts on a cookie sheet and toast for about 3-5 minutes, being careful not to burn the nuts. Remove from oven and reserve.
For the dressing, take a medium bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, onion and salt and pepper to taste.
To caramelize the carrots have 3 or 4 layers of paper towels on a cookie sheet near the stove along with a slotted spoon. In a 12-inch slope-sided skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high for a few moments. It should sizzle when you drop a piece of carrot in it, but not smoke.
Salt the carrots and gently drop them into the oil. Cook, turning with the slotted spoon for 30 to 45 seconds until they are browning. Quickly scoop them up with slotted spoon, shaking off their oil, and spread them on the paper towel. Sprinkle them with the sugar.
Stir the garlic into the oil for a few seconds until it barely picks up color and scoop it out to drain on paper towels. Cool the oil in the pan off the heat for a few minutes.
To finish the salad, scatter the carrots and garlic slices over the salads. Blend the oil in the pan into the dressing spoon it over the salads. Serve immediately.
Final Assessment: I loved, loved, loved this salad, because I am a huge fan of bitter greens. The caramelized carrots, crispy garlic, feta and pine nuts all topped off with the Vidalia onion dressing was sublime. My husband thought the greens were a little too bitter, but loved the rest. If you try this recipe, be sure to use baby greens, the full grown dandelion leaves will be too tough and bitter.