Early in the season, when the dandelions first arrive to take over our lawn, we can weed and feed at the same time. Actually “lawn” stands for a patch of green under a great big black walnut tree between our house and the street. There is some grass in the mix, but we affectionately think of our yard as a prairie, full of all kinds of growing things that get mowed down, combined with leaves, composted and tilled into the garden as compost. We don’t use chemicals of any kind, though black walnut trees are notorious for suppressing certain vegetation. Not so dandelions or violets.
When they are young, wild (meaning not the cultivated variety) dandelion leaves are very tasty. Although they’re fine added to a mixed green salad, my favorite way of serving them is wilted in a bacon and cider vinegar dressing. You don’t have to use pork bacon for this. My best version is with duck bacon from d”Artagnan. The pretty fatty duck breast is cured perfectly and is flavorful. When I first traveled to the Middle East, I was taken aback by seeing bacon on the menu, only to be reassured that it was beef bacon.
After rendering the fat from the bacon, add some minced onion or shallot and cook until translucent, add a little sugar (I prefer brown sugar) to the pan, and deglaze the mix with cider vinegar, adding a little vegetable oil if the bacon is lean, as mine typically is. Pour the warm dressing over the greens and toss to wilt. For an extra treat, I like to add tomatoes tossed in wasabi cream, a recipe I concocted for Paper Chef, a blog challenge that sadly went dark a few months ag
Wilted Dandelion Greens with Bacon Vinaigrette
Handful of washed dandelion leaves, or other bitter greens
1-2 slices good quality bacon
1 minced shallot or half a small onion (optional)
1 tsp brown sugar
1-3 tbsp cider vinegar (depending on fat yield
Vegetable oil (if insufficient bacon fat)
Assemble the greens in a serving bowl since you will want to serve this immediately after dressing it.
Make the warm dressing. Render the fat from the bacon over low heat. Remove the bacon to drain and add a little vinegar and sugar to the pan. (If adding onions, soften them in the fat before adding the vinegar.) Pour the warm mixture over the greens, crumble on the bacon and toss to coat the greens.