Thursday, April 12, 2007

Dandelion Leaves, All Dressed Up (võilillelehesalat)

Remember my New Year's Resolutions? Well, one of the resolutions was to make rullepølse or the Danish cooked rolled pork belly. And I'm happy to tell you that as of Easter Sunday this can be ticked off, too. You can see a glimpse of the rullepølse below, and I'll blog about it soon. Meanwhile, let me tell you a little about what I served it with. As I used a rather fatty piece of pork to make my first ever rullepølse, I needed something sharp to cut through the grease :-)

My solution? A sharp salad of dandelion leaves.

On Saturday we did the annual egg-swapping/seeing-the-relatives trip. We paid a visit to K's mum, my Granny No 1 and my Granny No 2, followed by a joyous lunch at my parents' house together with my sister, nephews and my favourite auntie. At each place, we 1) ate eggs; 2) exchanged eggs; and 3) jarped some eggs. For example, Granny No 1 got one of my eggs, whereas I got one in return (egg number 6 on this post). It was also at the said grandmother's place that I picked up a small bunch of young dandelion leaves. Definitely worth trying - their taste is not so dissimilar to wild rocket leaves, and cost nothing at all..

Dandelion leaves (Taraxacum), as my newly acquired Estonian book on the use of wild garden plants in the kitchen said, are 3-4 times more nutritious than salad leaves. The ancient Greeks believed that dandelion aided digestion, stimulated appetite and increased sexual potency, and worked as a diuretic and as a tonic, among many other properties. The leaves are high on protein (2.4%), carbohydrates (7-8%) and vitamins C (30-70mg%) and E (7-8mg%) and betacarotene (7-8mg%). The fat content is insignificant (0.5-0.6%). Dandelion is cultivated in many countries, notably in France (Chez Pim wrote about pissenlit only recently), Spain and Portugal, but here in Estonia it is definitely considered a weed. A beautiful one, both when in bloom and after it (as on the above photo taken by K. last summer), but definitely a bothersome weed that usually ends up in the compost pile rather than on a plate.

The salad below was called 'dandelion salad, Italian style' in the book.

Dandelion Leaves, all dressed up
Serves 4
Adapted from Umbrohud tüliks ja tuluks, by Toivo Niiberg & Enn Lauringson (Maalehe Raamat, 2007)

young dandelion leaves*, washed and roughly chopped
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
a generous squeeze of lemon juice
some fresh tarragon leaves
Maldon sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Mix everything and serve. Goes well with something greasy.

* Soaking dandelion leaves in cold water for 30 minutes will get rid off the harshness of the leaves.

WHB: This is also my entry to the Weekend Herb Blogging, this time hosted by Haalo from Cook (almost) Anything at Least Once.


Thredahlia said...

Hehe, ma just eile ostsin omale selle raamatu - Terevisiooni intervjuu tundus nii inspireeriv :) Nüüd ootan, millal mind umbrohuväljasõitudele viiakse.

Muide, Taraxacum officinale on vist ainuke ladinakeelne nimi, mida mu vanaisa teab, sest tema ohvitserist isa õpetas seda talle "ta raksatas ohvitseri naale" analoogia põhjal :P Pidi selline vallatult uhke taim olema.

Anonymous said...

Pille, i'm learning something everyday! I never knew dandelion leaves are edible. Yesterday, i learned from Scott about garden snails escargot!

The pork belly looks delish. I'm so curious what dandelion leaves taste like... :)

Alanna Kellogg said...

Aiii, all those dandelion 'benefits' are going to deliver search engine users most surprised to fine a sweet recipe for dandelion greens! And it's so funny how we're channeling each other ... I posted dandelion greens just yesterday!!

Kalyn Denny said...

Yummy. I hate these little weeds in my lawn, but I love to eat the greens. And I did notice you and Alanna were channeling each other! (That's a good thing, btw!)

Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said...

I don't have a yard, but was planning a trip to Central Park this weekend (barring good weather) to forage for dandelion leaves and epazote. You can buy them at the store now, but it just seems so wrong!

Anonymous said...

You can come & forage anytime in my yard for dandelion leaves when you return from the UK, Pille. Have a fun time.

Trig said...

I've wanted to try dandelion leaves for a while now, I'm gettin even more curious now. An increase in sexual potency eh, if it's good enough for the ancient Greeks then it'll do for me! So what do they taste like?

Susan said...

Except for small pockets of regional farm cooking, dandelions are pretty much considered weeds here in the U.S. Your post, however, make them look mighty appealing. Now, if I could just get my hands on some that are free of weed killers or roadside pollution. I've not seen them in any market yet.

Pille said...

Thredahlia - me saame nüüd virtuaalsel teel üheskoos sellest raamatust kokkama hakata :-) Ja peaks ka ladinakeelseid taimenimesid sedasi meelde jätma hakkama!

Mae - dandelion leaves tasted a bit like wild rocket leaves, that is a bit sharp and bitter, but pretty nice. I'd definitely serve it again.

Alanna - this 'channeling' business is pretty cool. I wrote the post, and then checked my bloglines list of new posts, just to read that you've written about it, too! And re: search engine users - that thought crossed my mind for a moment, I must admit. But then I'm just sharing the ancient Greek knowledge, you know;-)

Kalyn - do you eat the ones in your lawn? I've only got non-edible grass in my garden at the moment..

Homesick Texan - I guess we are sometimes way too willing to pay for some wild plants, berries and mushrooms instead of forageing for these ourselves! What's epazote??

Pene - thanks! My mum would hate me if she'd know I weed other gardens apart from hers (or my own). I had great time in the UK, thanks for your good wishes!

Trig - as I said, a wee bit bitter and sharp, but who cares if the benefits are so huge :)

Susan - hope you'll find a good source soon! And thanks for commenting!

SabrebIade said...

Thank you very much!
I just started foraging and tried dandelion leaves, way too bitter.
But I will try these recipes.