Friday, May 1, 2015

Dandelion Salad with Caramelized Onion

Dandelions were one of the most annoying weeds that grew in my backyard in Poland. As a child I enjoyed playing with them when they were blooming, but did not know then that they could be eaten.

Later, while living in Geneva and shopping in French food markets, I often saw bunches of dandelions especially in early spring displayed in the fresh vegetables section. French recipes for dandelions were all kind of salads in which dandelion was served raw. Although I love all greens, dandelion seemed too hard and too bitter to enjoy it raw. I knew however that dandelion was extremely nutritious, rich in vitamins A, C, and K, as well as iron and calcium and worth including in a healthy diet.

Here, in the US, dandelions are available in Whole Foods and Asian food markets. And recently, thanks to my newly discovered interest in the Lebanese cuisine, I found my way to make something interesting with dandelion.

I have not seen dandelion on a menu of any Lebanese restaurant in my area but I read about a dandelion dish in a traditional Lebanese cookbook. Then my Lebanese friend explained to me the secret of a dandelion dish. When I made it I became a big fan of that curious green. It is a cooked dish but it is served cold like a salad. Dandelion is cooked or rather steamed to preserve his nice tenderness. There is also something very intriguing in the taste of this dish, which is at the same time sour, bitter, and slightly sweet thanks to the onion, which made it one of my favorite lunch dishes in recent months.

This dish is to be served alone with pita bread but I think it could also be a nice accompaniment to grilled or roasted meat, preferably lamb.

Dandelion Salad with Caramelized Onion
(Serves four)

4 bunches of dandelions,
4 medium onions peeled, cut in halves and sliced,
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil,
juice from 2 lemons and one more lemon for decoration,
salt and pepper to finish.

1. Wash and chop dandelion leaves into half-inch long pieces. Put them in a heavy duty pot and steam until water evaporates and dandelion becomes dark green.
2. Heat the oil in a heavy duty frying pan and add sliced onion. Fry on a medium heat stirring frequently. It will take about 10 minutes until onion is caramelized.

3. Drain about a half of the onions from the frying pan and set aside.
4. Add the dandelion to the remaining oil. Pour in about 1/3 cup lemon juice, season with salt and cook for about 5 minutes, until dandelion becomes tender but still dark green.

5. Transfer dandelion to a serving dish and decorate with caramelized onion. Let it cool.
6. Decorate with lemon wedges before serving. Serve with pita bread.