If you can get dandelion leaves when they’re tiny and in their first flush of green, they are wonderfully tart, with just a nip of bitterness. That’s when they’re meant for the salad bowl.
In this salad those young greens play against the sweetness of carrot strips you’ve caramelized in a little olive oil. Add salted pistachios and fresh goat cheese and you’ll have echoes of spring in the Middle East.
If you wash and dry the greens, roll them up in toweling, and seal them in a plastic bag, they’ll hold overnight in the fridge. The dressing could be done a couple of hours ahead and kept at room temperature.
Cook to Cook: If small dandelion greens aren’t to be had, curly endive, frisée, mizuna, spring blends, or other tart greens work here.
1. Heap the greens on individual plates. Scatter with the nuts and small spoonfuls of the goat cheese.
2. To make the dressing, in a medium bowl whisk together the vinegar, mustard, onion, and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
3. To caramelize the carrots, place a slotted spoon and 3 or 4 layers of paper towels on a cookie sheet near the stove. In a 12-inch skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high until hot, but not smoking. It should sizzle when a carrot piece is dropped in. Gently ease the carrots into the oil. Cook, turning with the slotted spoon, 30 to 45 seconds, or until carrots are browning. Quickly scoop them up with the slotted spoon, shaking off the oil, and spread them on the paper towels. Sprinkle them with the salt and sugar, using enough to brighten their flavors.
4. Reduce the heat to medium and stir the garlic into the oil; cook a few seconds until the garlic barely picks up color. Scoop it out and drain on the paper towels with the carrots. Remove the pan from the heat, allow the oil to cool slightly.
5. To finish the salad, barely re-warm the oil in the pan, then scatter the carrots and garlic slices over the greens. Blend 5 to 6 tablespoons of the warm — but not hot — oil from the pan into the dressing and spoon it over the salads. Serve immediately.
From A Summertime Grilling Guide by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift. Copyright © 2012 by American Public Media.
Jekka McVicar is a gardening legend in her native England, and she tells Lynne about her latest project, a herb garden for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in London with a heartfelt purpose.