eats, shoots, and weeds

dscf3154I’ve been feeling down and under the weather lately.  I can’t complain about the weather, since we’ve had an almost uncannily rain-free winter, but the cold and the drear don’t help.  This is one of the moments when I admire the ‘eat local’ folks, trying to subsist on stored root vegetables and, oh, I dunno, weeds growing in the lawn.  This recipe is for them.

Cultivated organic dandelion is in the market right now, and it’s very pretty, with a red interior rib.  As soon as our bona fide dinner-plate-sized dandelions poke up into the grass, I’m going to experiment with some wild ones. Dandelions are bitter greens, so you should be sure to add a bit of sweetness and creaminess to balance the flavors.  The mild goat cheese and sweet roasted beets do it for me.

The goat cheese should be firmer than the stuff I bought, but I didn’t suffer for deliciousness with Fraga Farm goat cheese out of Sweet Home, OR.

I don’t know what to say about the fennel, frankly.  My fennel has overwintered and is poking up little fennel fronds, but I didn’t want to sacrifice them for the sake of a salad, so I sacrificed local eating principles instead.

Use gold or red beets: whatever you have stored, you locavore goddess, you. The important thing to keep in mind is that you need them already roasted, so throw them in the oven with your dinner the night before.  Even two days before.  I roast them with the skins on, then peel the skins off after they’ve cooled.  Much cleaner and easier that way.  The temperature — I guess around 350, but like I said, I usually just throw them in the oven with my roast or baking the night before, so you could stretch it from 350 – 425.  Just watch them carefully if you’re using a higher heat.  They’ll be done when you can pierce them easily with a knife.

For the anise vinaigrette, you’ll want to use a very mild and sweet vinegar.   The dressing in the recipe is really just a guideline, since it will vary so widely depending on what you use.  I used my favorite Unio Riesling vinegar, but you could try verjus or maybe even Meyer lemon, should that work for your locality.

Dandelion Salad with Goat Cheese, Roasted Gold Beets and Fennel in an Anise Vinaigrette

Serves two as an accompaniment

  • 4 cups dandelion greens, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 tablespoons minced parsley
  • a head of fennel with greens attached
  • 2 small gold beets, roasted (can be done the day before), chopped
  • 4-5 tablespoons fresh goat cheese
  • 1 t. toasted anise seeds, crushed using a mortar and pestle
  • 1 tablespoon sweet, mild vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons excellent olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon Pernod, Herbsaint or Absinthe
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Chop greens and parsley and place in large bowl.  Attend to the fennel:  remove the most tender, appealing green fronds from the middle of the stalks, clean and dry, then chop coarsely and add to the salad bowl.  Thinly slice or shave about half the fennel bulb, and add to the salad bowl.  (Reserve the rest of the fennel for another use.)  Add the chopped, roasted beets.

Mix fresh goat cheese with 1/2 of the anise seeds and some black pepper in a small bowl.  Using a tablespoon, scoop out four dollops and roll them into little balls in your hands (approximately the size of a large marble).  Set cheese balls aside.

Whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, the remaining anise seeds, the Pernod, salt and black pepper to taste.  The vinaigrette should be a little bit sweet and not too bitter.  Add a bit of sugar if the flavors need balancing.

Once the vinaigrette is emulsified and the flavors taste balanced, toss with the salad greens.  Just before serving, place two cheese balls on top of the greens on each dish.

One thought on “eats, shoots, and weeds

  1. Amy 25 January 2009 / 9:12 pm

    Eugenia – I got local fennel at Market of Choice this weekend. Strangely, it was the only local vegetable I could find. It wasn’t cheap though – $3 for a single bulb.


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