Dandelion leaves. These have always been one of my favorite greens to prepare. Maybe it has some sadistic pleasure in cooking up something that I always seem to be yanking out of our lawn. Maybe it is the fact that they taste great, and are one of the healthiest greens you can eat.
They do seem like they are best when they are young, and in earlier summer than we are in now. To me they always seem to taste more bitter come the end of summer and I have a little harder time working out what to do with them because of it.
In the Wright household we always start the day with a juice. How bloody healthy. An assortment of greens go in, which always includes some dandelion, some celery, a carrot, and a couple of apples – and not forgetting some parsley. Mix this up with some orange juice. It is, I have to say, an acquired taste. But, once you learn to love it, it is a complete craving. So many antioxidants and vit’s in one simple glass. This is going to sound all hippy of me, but because of this juice, I have never felt better.
WOW, that was a detour folks. OK, back to the task in hand. Dandelion leaves. This is one of those ridiculously simple recipes that is easily fast enough for anyone having lunch at home. In fact, it takes about the amount of time it takes for the bacon to cook. OH, DID SOMEONE SAY BACON? Now I have your attention… It couldn’t be all healthy antioxidants could it (but, I actually do consider a proper piece of pasture raised pork bacon to be almost health food.. more on that later).
Most of this recipe is all thanks to one amazing woman, who I completely love. Elizabeth David. Don’t worry, I am not cheating on Danika…. She is one of my favorite cookbook authors.
Drum Roll for “French Provincial Cooking” please!!
So, Liz as I like to call her. Or Lizy-baby when Danika isn’t in ear shot. She wrote this book back in 1958, and it has had a couple of revisions since. It is a complete classic.
This is food based travel writing at its complete best. I love Bourdain and his travelogues, but he looks like a complete novice and hack compared to Lizy-baby (lets hope Danika doesn’t read this).
Liz is blunt. Very blunt. Very direct, and very to the point. She assumes people know how to cook. She assumes that you have a passion for good quality ingredients, and that you have a similar passion for good execution. She will remind you time and time again throughout the book that recipes will fail, and that you should cook something else if you don’t have these said passions.
No one today could publish a cookbook like this. I honestly believe it. The amount of research that has gone into this is phenomenal. This is a near documentation of her travels through France – with wit, a sly eye, and a passion for simple, REALLY GOOD food.
There are no pictures. There are some pretty crappy drawings here and there. This book isn’t about looking good. Think of it as the complete opposite of the Food Network. Amazing food, that isn’t dumbed down, by a down to earth author that really knows her stuff. She is one of my complete food hero’s.
You aren’t ever going to see this food in a Gordon Ramsay restaurant. But I can almost guarantee you he own’s this book. Classic, rustic French food. From France.
So.. whenever I go on vacation I always take along Liz. Her stories that litter the book make for great plane reading. Her recipes I always turn to read after I have eaten a bad meal out in a place that I don’t know.
This Dandelion salad is a little rework of a dandelion salad she has in this book. Her original recipe is really just dandelion leaves, bacon, and wine vinegar. I have added to this with some fresh chopped parsley and chives, and a diced shallot. This, with the mackerel makes one of my favorite lunches of all time.
And.. whilst I am on the subject of cookbooks – Here is my humble, humble cookbook collection. I have tried to go for quality over quanity. I am lucky to own some amazing books, and some pretty shite one’s too (these were gifts, that I cannot really give away..). What are my favorites? (in no particular order) Bouchon, French Provincial Cooking, Italian Two Easy, The Food of India (better than it sounds..). I would say the French Laundry Cookbook, because it is incredible, but in all honesty I am not going to cook from it much. I just don’t have the time for a lot of the recipes in there.
No prizes for guessing where I keep this little collection. With a toddler on our hands, it is about the only place I ever get some reading done.
Dandelion Salad, with shallots and bacon. Grilled Mackerel (serves 2)
1 handful of dandelion leaves, chopped
5 rashes of really high quality bacon – preferably not smoked heavily
1 medium shallot – finely diced
1 small handful of a mix of chopped flat leaf parsley and chopped chives
3 or 4 tablespoons of good quality white wine vinegar
2 large mackerel fillets
Cut the bacon into 1/2” cubes. Get a heavy pan (I like a well seasoned cast iron pan for bacon) reasonably hot, add a splash of olive oil. Gently saute the shallot until soft. Try not to brown.
Put the dandelion leaves in a bowl. Add in the cooked shallots.
In the same pan in which you cooked the shallots, add the bacon. Gently cook until the bacon is cooked through, and a lot of fat has been released into the pan. Don’t crisp up the bacon, if you do this you aren’t going to release enough fat into the pan to make the dressing. Gently, gently, gently.
Remove the bacon from the pan, and toss into the bowl with the dandelions and shallots.
Turn up the heat under the bacon pan, add the vinegar, quickly mix, and then pour over the greens.
Sprinkle in the herbs, toss to combine, and serve immediately.
Words can honestly not describe how bloody good, and how simple this is. Done right, you have the perfect balance of bitter, fat and sharp. Just incredible.
To cook the mackerel fillets – toss them in a little olive oil. Heat up your oven broiler to high. Put them under the grill – skin side to the heat for about 4 minutes, until cooked through. No need to flip them. If the skin is looking like it is going to burn badly, pull them away from the heat a bit whilst the flesh cooks through.
And on a final note. We are taking a vacation for a week. We are traveling to see some old friends, and some great new ones. I won’t have Internet access, so no email. YAY. See you all next week!!