Are you looking for a unique and flavorful way to enjoy dandelion greens? Look no further! This sauteed Italian dandelion greens recipe combines the love for foraging with the rich flavors of Italian cuisine. It’s time to change your perception of this wild edible and discover a new favorite dish.
Don’t let those dandelions go to waste! These edible plants are abundant in temperate climates, likely growing right in your own backyard. This season is the perfect time to gather what the Italians call Cicoria or Cichorium intybus. You can elevate these greens by preparing them with breadcrumbs and fried eggplant slices, creating a delicious Italian dandelion greens recipe.
What is Cicoria?
Italian dandelion greens, also known as cicoria, have been a staple of the Mediterranean diet since ancient times. They are widely cultivated in many Italian regions and are prominently featured in menus during the winter months.
Cicoria is a prized ingredient in Italy, used in salads, pasta dishes, and soups. The tangy leaves are often enjoyed raw or cooked in various ways, such as sauteed, braised, or fried. You can find both cultivated and foraged varieties of dandelion greens (tarassaco) throughout Italy during the spring and summer months.
Why This Foraged Greens Recipe Works
I absolutely love sauteing cicoria with garlic and chili flakes or braising it with olive oil and freshly ground black pepper. This super easy recipe is perfect for when I want something quick, simple, healthy, and delicious all at once!
This dish starts with a few simple ingredients that you probably already have on hand, but it will give your everyday greens a fresh twist.
If you don’t have access to cultivated dandelion greens, you can substitute them with kale, chard, or spinach. Just keep in mind that cooking times may vary depending on the greens you choose. Adjust accordingly.
The number of garlic cloves you use will depend on your preference for garlic flavor. The recipe calls for one cup of garlic cloves, but feel free to adjust to your taste.
Freshly-squeezed lemon juice adds a bright and tangy kick to the dish. If you don’t have lemons on hand, you can substitute with apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar.
I recommend using California Olive Oil for its robust flavor, but you can use regular olive oil as well.
Kosher salt works well in this recipe, as it’s easy to measure and dissolves quickly. Add salt to taste.
Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
Add a teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes for a spicy kick. Feel free to adjust the amount according to your preference. You can use store-bought or dehydrated peppers for crushed red seasoning.
Look for tender young dandelion leaves in the spring, as they will be the most flavorful. They usually appear after the ground softens. Although you may still find them later in summer and fall, they might be tougher and more bitter.
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the whole bunch of dandelion greens and blanch for 2 minutes. The greens should turn bright green. Drain.
Using a paring knife, chop the greens into bite-size pieces. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-low heat. Add garlic and cook until slightly brown, stirring constantly for about 1 minute. Be careful not to burn the garlic.
Increase the heat to medium-high and add the chopped dandelion greens. Cook until heated through, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and toss well before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Cicoria goes by various names, including wild chicory, broad-leaved endive, dandelion, and escarole. It is a perennial herbaceous plant that grows on roadsides, fields, and meadows throughout Italy.
The leaves of cicoria are edible at any growth stage, and the flowers bloom from May through October. The young leaves can be enjoyed raw, while the older leaves require cooking.
To clean cicoria, cut out the base where the leaves meet the root, separate the leaves, and wash them thoroughly under cold running water. Dry them well with paper towels or a salad spinner, and cut them into pieces.
The flavors of this recipe are bold, making it pair well with light, neutral-tasting side dishes. However, it’s also a great opportunity to showcase your favorite vegetables as the main dish. Cooked zucchini, white beans, and steamed potatoes all make excellent choices.
Serve with plain or garlicky mashed potatoes as an alternative to pasta. The potatoes will soak up the sauce nicely, and you can place the meatballs on top.
Create small wells in the greens, crack an egg into each well, and cover the pan. Cook until the eggs are done to your liking. Serve with crusty bread for a delicious and hearty meal.
Add some cooked orzo, quinoa, rice, or other grains to turn it into a one-dish meal.
Suggestions for Extras
Feel free to customize this dish to your liking. For added protein, toss in a can of cannellini beans or chickpeas. Dried herbs such as rosemary, oregano, and thyme can enhance the flavors. If you want some sweetness and color, throw in a handful of dried cranberries.
While dandelion greens are excellent for this recipe, you can use just about any leafy green. Cooking another green like chard or spinach alongside dandelion greens can also yield a delicious result.
In addition to olive oil, you can use butter or a combination of butter and olive oil. Field garlic butter makes a delightful addition to this recipe as well!
For flavor variations, try adding sauteed garlic, hot red pepper flakes, or a splash of vinegar to the greens.
With this sauteed Italian dandelion greens recipe, you can transform humble dandelion greens into a culinary delight. Embrace the flavors of Italy and the joy of foraging as you savor each bite. Don’t miss out on this unique opportunity to explore the delicious possibilities of dandelion greens. Enjoy!