Me, I bought the dandelion greens at Whole Foods. And as I cooked, I thought about how much our world has changed, that dandelion greens are now just one more commercial enterprise, a healthful one perhaps, but still. And then I sat down to a great supper.
The good news is that you needn't have dandelions for this quick supper. Mustard greens would work, so would arugula / rocket, anything with a tad of peppery-ness in the greens. And it needn't be 'supper' either, just skip the pasta for a side dish that half cooks itself.
FRESH PASTA For being long on Italian heritage, St. Louis is short on fresh pasta. Tonight's came from the brand-new Stellina Pasta Cafe, a new restaurant that also sells fresh, handcrafted, organic pasta. I've tried the semolina, this was the flax tagliatelle. (And I've added it to the list of favorite St. Louis food sources.)
And both Weight Watchers and weight watchers might be interested in my first experiences with fresh pasta. I was worried that it would be sooooo good I'd feel tempted to over-indulge. But just the opposite. It is good -- make that very good -- but Stellina's fresh pasta, anyway, is 'filling' and 'satisfying' in ways I simply didn't expect. It's actually easy NOT to overindulge.
And if you think that the supermarket's 'fresh' pasta is comparable? Trust me, IT ISN'T. Fresh pasta is worth seeking out.
HOW TO PREP MUSHROOMS In the last while, I've been toying with how to clean and slice fresh mushrooms. Here's what I've come down to.
- Washing - 'Brush', don't wash, mushrooms is the standard direction. But too often, that leaves grit in whatever I'm cooking. So I've started to wash mushrooms under running water, 'brushing' them with my fingers. And then I let them air dry in a colander, some times lined with a paper towel, before proceeding.
- Slicing vs Breaking into Pieces - It never even occurred to me to break mushrooms into pieces until the technique was suggested for the World's Best Green Casserole. I wondered if breaking was necessary so with one batch, I used a knife to quarter the mushrooms. And I couldn't believe the difference! When you slice mushrooms, they end up like little bits of mushrooms in canned mushroom soup. When you break mushrooms apart, they remain identifiably mushrooms in whatever I'm making. It's the only way I do mushrooms now.
- What to Do with the Stems - They are tougher than the caps. But mostly, I chop them up into smaller pieces, this time using a knife. Or some times I'll slice off the rough end, then toss into the freezer bag where I collect bits of leftover vegetables until I have enough to make vegetable stock.
FROM THE ARCHIVES All the New-to-Me vegetables are collected in the Recipe Box.
A YEAR AGO Day 365, then end of an incredible year of cooking vegetables in new ways every day. I celebrate with carrot cookies!
GREAT FOOD BLOGS that also COOK DANDELION GREENS
StephenCooks ... Dandelion Greens with Balsamic Vinegar and Almonds
What Geeks Eat ... Smokey Spicy Spanish Soup with Dandelion Greens
Evil Jungle Prince ... Turkish Dandelion Salad
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DANDELION GREENS with MUSHROOM & PANCETTA
Time to table: 25 minutes (estimate for side dish, 15 minutes)
1 pound dandelion greens
1/4 pound pancetta, cut into small pieces (or 2 slices bacon, or bacon grease, or olive oil, next time I'll use less, maybe 1/8 of a pound)
1/2 pound mushrooms (I wash and air dry the mushrooms, then remove the stems, then break the caps into pieces)
3 tablespoons good vinegar (sherry is suggested, I used malt)
1/4 cup heavy cream
Salt & pepper to taste
Bring large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta for time directed. (Fresh pasta cooks for only 1 - 2 minutes so plan accordingly.)
Wash the greens very well under running water, shake off excess water (or run through a salad spinner) then let continue to drain in a colander.
In a large skillet, cook the pancetta til it begins to curl. Add mushrooms as they're prepped, stirring to coat with fat and then occasionally, until they're nearly cooked. Stir in the vinegar and let cook down til almost gone. Stir in the cream and let cook down til almost absorbed.
Chop the greens and add about two minutes before pasta is ready. (Use your judgment on timing. The heavier the greens, the longer they'll need to cook. You want to the greens to retain their bright color. I some times hold out a portion of the greens to add at the VERY last minute, in case the bulk of the greens lose their color.) Season to taste.
Serve over cooked and drained pasta.