Spring is finally here. I know this not only because I have spotted fiddlehead ferns and ramps, but because the tiny black ant population has hatched outside and is trying to get into my house. (Any thoughts on how to combat this problem without harming my dog would be greatly appreciated!) That aside, my weekly walk through the Union Square Farmers Market on Monday morning was such a pleasure. The temperature at 8:30 am was in the 60s and the vendors literally have doubled since last week. I was very happy to see a favorite table that appears at the Larchmont Farmers Market, Lanis Farm from Bordentown, NJ. One of their specialties, in my opinion, are gorgeous tender leafy greens. Their salad mix is beautifully exotic. Tiny kale and mustard greens, pea shoots, broccoli flowers, so many different things. In particular that morning I spotted young tender dandelions. On the train in I had just read a post from Chefs Consortium about Dandelions and Chive Soup. I picked up a bag and made the soup that morning. Really delicious!
Dandelions are high in Vitamins A and K, Folate and Iron. They do have a mild bitterness that becomes more pronounced as they grow. You can eat them in a salad raw, but I would highly suggest the most-tender young greens. If you do find more mature dandelions, and I have seen them at Apple Farm in Westchester, you might consider blanching them first. That will definitely remove the bitterness.
With plenty of dandelions left over I was going to work up a variation on the soup, but had another inspiration. On Monday evening I attended an event at Eataly, for the new Healthy Pasta cookbook by Joe Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali. Brother and sister teamed up to make several dishes from the book, paired with wines. Many of the recipes are simple, healthy and full of flavor. That’s pretty much my mantra, as you know, with Seasonal Chef.
So last night, using just a few ingredients, I pulled together a quick and tasty dish in under 20 minutes. The quantities below will be enough for about two portions. I had it warm last night and the leftovers will be my lunch later on today!
Put a pot of salted water on to boil. Slice and saute two garlic cloves in ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil. To that add ½ cup thinly sliced scallion, green and white parts. Cook until slightly golden and soft. Be sure to season with salt and pepper. I also added a good pinch of red chili flake for a nice kick.
To that add two to three handfuls of well rinsed and roughly chopped spring dandelions, with another pinch of salt and pepper. Once they wilt turn the heat down.
I used angel hair pasta, simply because I was looking for a quick dinner. The package said six minutes for al dente. I cooked about a third of the box for three minutes and then added it to the dandelion-scallion pan, along with a good ladle of pasta water. Turn the heat back up and cook for another two to three minutes.
Top with another drizzle of olive oil, if desired, roughly chopped fresh parsley and grated Parmiganno-Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese. That’s it: an easy, delicious and light pasta dish for a mid-week dinner. Add salad and garlic bread if you want, but this alone hit the spot for me.
I am pleased to let you know that I am setting up my cooking class schedule with Hilltop Hanover Farm, in Yorktown, and my Westchester Farmer’s Market demo schedule now. I will post it all as soon as it’s set. I am really looking forward to being out and about at our glorious markets in Westchester!