oakandsage (oakandsage) wrote in wildfoods,


Dandelions are growing in SoCal. As the local fruit season ends with a last crock put full of pear butter, I turn again to the fields for interesting things to eat.

Dandelion/walnut/shaggy mane pesto
(A recipe with rather a lot of variations)

I used 2 cups (or a small basket full) dandelions, about a tablespoon of crushed walnuts, and however many shaggy manes you happen to find (throw them out if they're turning purple). Shiitake is a decent commercial substitute, but its flesh is firmer.

Standard mushrooming disclaimer: If you don't normally hunt mushrooms, don't run out and try to find some just for some recipe on the internet. You might die. The inclusion of shaggy manes in this recipe is intended for people who would otherwise gather shaggy manes and go "Hmm, I have to use these within a few hours, but what should I make today?"

Standard disclaimer for plants that prefer to grow where people live ("weeds"): Don't eat your neighbor's herbicide. Automobile exhaust is also not tasty.

Anyway, blanch your dandelion greens, or don't. Blanching them produces less bitterness; not blanching them produces more flavor.

Cut everything into pretty small pieces; it will make your life easier later.

In a good sized saucepan, melt a pat of UNSALTED butter. UNSALTED. UNSALTED. Throw in your dandelion greens, some garlic or onions (optional), walnuts, and shaggy manes. Cook until the shaggy manes are a nice golden color, the onions are translucent, and the greens are pretty dark.

When cooking with wild mushrooms, it's best to cook them fully, and it's also best not to think too hard about why this is necessary (to find out, leave some mushrooms in a sealed plastic bag on your kitchen counter for a few days, and then remember that everything alive in that bag was on those mushrooms in some less obvious form to begin with. For the most "fun," try this with a bolete).

After the pesto's cooked, look at it and wonder whether you wouldn't rather eat it as is, as cooked greens. You could probably stop now and do just that. But if you've cooked all this pasta (or whatever you eat pesto on) you may figure, might as well keep going. Throw it in the blender. If you wanted soup, you'd throw in some chicken or vegetable broth with it; then you could bring it back up to hot, add cream (optional but nice), grate a little cheese on top (optional), and eat. But if you want pesto, let it cool a little more, and add some good quality olive oil.

Why did I have you cook this in butter if I was going to have you add olive oil at the end? Well, really, you could have cooked it in olive oil, and it would be healthier to do so. But high temperature cooking destroys the flavor of olive oil (but only enhances the flavor of butter). So I use butter for the high-heat part and then add a strong-flavored olive oil later.

If eating it on pasta, some parmesan cheese is a nice addition.
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