Dandelions, Tomatoes & Beans (Oh My!)

dandelions pan 4 **?

“Eat your vegetables!” is every parent’s mantra. We know their nutritional value and want to make sure that our children and grandchildren reap all the benefits of a highly nutritious diet.   However, it has always been my experience that vegetables need to be disguised in some delicious sauce, because boiled with a pat of butter, never was a hit in my family. Luckily, growing up in an Italian family, boiled with a pat of butter, was rarely the case. Vegetables were always flavorful, sauteed in olive oil with garlic, or maybe onion and prosciutto, or with a few tomatoes thrown in for good measure. Or better yet, tossed with pasta. Many times, beans, such as cannellini or chick beans, were tossed with a leafy green vegetable in garlic and oil. When in a rush, my mom would just sprinkle some Italian grated pecorino or parmigiana cheese on top of just about any vegetable, and transform a bitter green into a delicious dish. Such creativity!!

My love of dandelions, especially at this time of year, when they are beautiful and plentiful in our markets, has caused me to embrace my creative side (which isn’t much to speak of), and come up with some different ways to make this bitter green. I could indeed make them every night, but sautéed with garlic and oil and sprinkled with Italian cheese was starting to get a little boring. (But please do check out that recipe in the archives. It’s delicious in all it’s simplicity.) So I started to think with the creative side of my brain, and an idea came to me! We make escarole and beans (please check that out in the archives as well)….why not dandelions and beans? Dandelions are bitter, so I then thought that maybe I should add some tomatoes to sweeten the dish a bit.   The result was amazing! I’m sure many of you already have made this discovery for any number of vegetables, but I get very excited when I make something delicious without using a recipe. Perhaps is it my love of recipes that has thwarted my creative side!

Let me assure you that no matter how hard you try to disguise or enhance the taste of most vegetables, you’ll still have that one child, who won’t eat them. However, my experience has shown me, that once they are grown adults, they will start to beg you for these very dishes. Don’t give up. They will come around….eventually!

RECIPE:  to be eaten as a main dish or a side dish

2 to 3 bunches of dandelions

2 lbs cherry tomatoes, halved

2 15 ounces cans of cannellini beans

1/2 cup olive oil

4 cloves garlic, sliced

1 TBSP sea salt, plus more,  to taste

Black ground pepper to taste.

  1.  Cut off some of the ends of the dandelions and soak in cold water.  You may have to drain and repeat this process several times to make sure the dandelions are clean and free of sand and grit.   I usually put 2 tsp. of white vinegar in the water for the first soak, as I read somewhere (who remembers where?!) that this will help in the cleaning process.
  2. Once cleaned, put in a large pot, covering the dandelions about 3/4 of the way with water.   Add the salt.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, uncover and cook for about 30 minutes, until tender….but not too tender.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet (large enough to hold all the dandelions and the sauce), saute the garlic in the olive oil for several minutes.  Then add the tomatoes, another sprinkling of sea salt, to taste. Cover and cook over low heat for 15 minutes or so…..until broken down a bit into a sauce.
  4. Add the beans and cook until heated through.
  5. Once the dandelions are cooked, drain well.  Add to the tomato mixture and toss well.  Adjust the seasonings, adding salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Serve with grated pecorino romano or parmigiana cheese.
  7. Call the kids.  They’re going to love it…….maybe!

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