From the Culinary Underground: Dandelion, a beneficial weed

This is the latest in an ongoing guest series brought to you by Southborough’s Culinary Underground. This week Chef Lori takes on a much-maligned springtime ingredient: dandelions.

The common dandelion: has any other weed been so reviled? It has been used as a culinary ingredients for centuries and if you haven’t experienced it, please do. It’s available in the markets right now and I think it’s a perfect springtime ingredient. Not only does it add a slightly bitter edge to your salads, it’s loaded with vitamins A, C, K, and is a good source of calcium and potassium as well.

Blanching the leaves removes some of the bitterness, but I think it’s bite is part of the appeal. Growing up, my mom would serve it as a salad with hot bacon dressing and the older generation would make a dandelion wine from the blossoms. In recent years, I’ve been experimenting with different greens in my pestos (not being a big fan of basil), because this Italian-based sauce is a great way to use up greens leftover from that big bunch you bought or got stuck with in your last CSA box.

Here I’ve used the pesto in deviled eggs – which I’m going to have plenty of come the day after Easter, as usual!

Dandelion Pesto
(1-1/2 Cups)

1 Cup tightly packed dandelion leaves, well-rinsed and dried
½ Cup large basil leaves
1-2 garlic cloves
1/2 Cup lightly toasted walnuts
1/4 Cup olive oil
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

In the bowl of a food processor or blender, pulse together dandelion leaves, basil, garlic, and nuts. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the motor running, add olive oil and process until a smooth paste forms. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

The pesto will keep, covered with a thin film of olive oil, for up to 1 month in the fridge or up to 6 months frozen.

To make deviled eggs: Peel and halve 6 large hard-cooked eggs. Carefully remove the cooked yolks to a bowl and mash them with a fork. Add 2 Tablespoons of the pesto, 2 Tablespoons mayonnaise, and salt and pepper to taste. Divide the filling among the egg whites, mounding the filling generously. Cover and chill before serving.

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