Wild dandelions, which grow plentifully in our region in the spring and summer, are the surprise ingredient in this One-Pot Farfalle with Dandelion Greens. Olives, walnuts, mushrooms, and white beans add layers of nutrition, texture, and flavor. Vegan and soy-free.
I have foraged in my backyard only rarely, and even then only for the occasional tomato that reseeded itself after a mild winter. As a rule, I tend to leave all berries and mushrooms alone, as anyone should, unless you really know what you’re looking for. But my verve to go looking for free vegetables whose goodness is wilting away under my nose was rekindled this week by a fascinating book, Ugly Little Greens.
I want to say at the beginning that this is not a book review, nor is this a particularly vegan friendly book. But I found it fascinating not just because it offers some rather enlightening wisdom on wild greens, but also because author and chef Mia Wasilevich cooks up plants that usually end up in the yard waste bin — greens like cattail, lamb’s quarters, purslane, mallow, nettle, nasturtium and, of course, the ubiquitous dandelion — into exotic, gourmet recipes like Moroccan Mallow Bastilla, Forest Fritto Misto, and Chilled Lemon Nettle Panna Cotta.
There is even a recipe for madeleines smothered elegantly in powdery yellow cattail pollen.
Rightaway, I recognized at least a couple of backyard invaders: dandelion and lamb’s quarters.
In my yard that’s still rather untended since we burst into spring, I have more than a few of both. And I’ve cooked with dandelions before– I enjoy their pleasant bitterness especially in soups, like this one.
So the first chance I had, I went into the backyard and pulled out handfuls of young dandelion leaves. Young, because I have found through past experience that the larger, more mature leaves tend to be rather bitter. I also found some greens from garlic cloves I had planted years ago and forgotten all about. And some sage, one of my favorite herbs and one that springs back each year effortlessly, unlike more temperamental herbs (I’ve never been able to get a rosemary plant to survive a winter, even with assurances from the nursery, and as a result I’ve gone through about half a dozen rosemary plants over the last decade. But that’s another story).
There’s something rather exciting about cooking with produce you’ve grown yourself, as any backyard vegetable gardener would attest, and there’s something very wild and very adventurous — and therefore very exciting — about picking and cooking with greens you did nothing to nurture. Once again, unless you know what you’re doing, don’t go picking wild greens or any other edible-looking plants — many edible greens have lookalikes that can be toxic. There are foraging classes offered in many urban areas now, and if you think you have the makings of an enthusiast, it would be good idea to join one.
For my One-Pot Farfalle with Dandelion Greens, I stuck with dandelions because I know they are quite safe. If you don’t have a yard with at least a few of these intrepid invaders, you might consider buying the greens which, around here, are sold at Asian grocery stores.
One very good reason to eat foraged greens is that most tend to be wildly nutritious. Dandelions, for instance, have blood purifying properties and prebiotic benefits — in other words, they help the good bacteria in your gut thrive. They are packed with minerals and vitamins and could be useful in slowing down Alzheimer’s.
Just remember that before you yank your next dandelion out of the ground and toss it into the pile of yard waste.
I fell so in love with this recipe after creating it last week, I’ve made it twice since. It serves up convenience and minimal clean-up with a side of adventure, so what’s not to love? Little Jay, who was rather fascinated by my foraging, enjoyed the pasta once he’d wrapped his mind around the idea of eating a weed.
The pasta goes into the pot with the veggies and all of it gets cooked up together into warm deliciousness. I use different veggies, and I add a number of other ingredients I enjoy in my pasta to add layers of texture and flavor. This time I added mushrooms, but Jay’s favorite was the one I made with new baby potatoes. Green beans would be lovely here. I also add some walnuts for crunch, salty Kalamata olives, and tangy lemon juice. All of these offset the slight bitterness of the dandelions rather beautifully.
- 12 oz farfalle or bowtie pasta
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 8 cloves garlic
- 20-25 leaves dandelion greens
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- A handful of garlic greens (optional)
- 1 tbsp Fresh sage, minced
- 2 14-oz cans white beans, drained
- 1 cup lightly toasted walnuts, chopped (optional)
- 2 cups kalamata olives, chopped
- 16 oz button or cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
- 3 cups water
- Salt and ground black pepper to taste
- Chopped parsley for garnish
- Juice and zest of 2 limes
Heat the oil in a saucepan large enough to hold the pasta and beans.
Add the garlic and when it sizzles and starts to turn color, add the dandelion greens and red pepper flakes. Stir to mix, cover, and let it cook about five minutes.
Add the mushrooms, sage and garlic greens with some salt and ground black pepper to taste. Saute for a couple of minutes.
Add the dry bowtie pasta and mix well. Add the vegetable stock and water. Check salt and bring to a boil.
Cover the pot and let the pasta cook for 8-10 minutes. Give the pasta a stir a couple of times during cooking so it does not clump. Turn off the heat when the pasta's al dente. You will still have some liquid at the bottom of the pan, but the pasta will absorb this as it stands.
Stir in the walnuts, if using, olives, white beans, and parsley. Squeeze in the lime juice.
Check salt. Let the pasta stand at least five minutes before serving.
-You can vary the vegetables used. Add green beans about five minutes into cooking the pasta, cover, and cook.
-If using baby potatoes, it would be a good idea to microwave them separately and then add, to ensure they are thoroughly cooked. This will not be a strictly one-pot meal, but the potatoes are delicious here.
-Halve some cherry tomatoes and mix them in at the very end, for a delightful presentation.
Cook with greens: