Pesky weed to some, seasonal delicacy to others, the jagged, bitter dandelion green is one of those Mediterranean peasant foods newly embraced for their health-giving properties—in this case, a preponderance of iron, calcium, and vitamin A. Delicate young greens are terrific raw in salads, but in the Greek kitchen, the mature leaf is often used in the generic “horta” preparation, (over)boiled and simply dressed with oil and lemon, the way Anthos chef Michael Psilakis’s mother made it. Psilakis prefers to preserve the plant’s bitter bite by blanching it quickly just to tenderize, then sautéing it with garlic and hot peppers, as in this warm spring salad.
Michael Psilakis’s Warm Dandelion Green, Fingerling Potato, and Cherry Pepper Salad
2 bunches mature dandelion greens, washed, thick stems removed
12 pickled cherry peppers
Extra-virgin olive oil
6 cloves garlic, crushed and coarsely chopped
18 fingerling potatoes, roasted and peeled
1½ cup pitted Thassos olives (Kalamata may be substituted)
Juice of three lemons
1½ cups crumbled Greek feta
Salt and pepper
Add dandelion greens to a large pot of boiling salted water, and cook just until the midribs (the part of the stem that extends into the leaf) are malleable. (1) Immediately remove and shock in an ice bath. Lay greens on a dish towel to dry thoroughly. Stem and quarter the cherry peppers, discarding the seeds if a milder degree of heat is desired. Add five tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil to a large pan over medium heat. (2) In rapid succession, cook garlic and peppers until garlic begins to brown, add potatoes and stir to coat with oil, add dandelion greens and olives to warm, and deglaze with lemon juice, giving the pan’s contents a quick toss. Take care not to overcook the greens and potatoes. (3) Transfer to a large serving bowl and add crumbled feta. Dress with olive oil and season to taste.