Have you ever foraged for wild greens? I know it may sound a bit hippy, but I have–several times, actually! In Italy during the springtime, I used to tag along with my mom and aunts as they went through the open fields behind the house, looking for wild greens such as poppy and dandelion leaves. If we were lucky, we also found hop shoots and nettles. We usually left in the mid-afternoon and came back at dusk with bags full of green goodies which inevitably ended up in a nice risotto or a tasty frittata.
It’s a very frugal and nature-friendly way of eating, but you have to be able to recognize edible plants otherwise you may end up eating greens that simply taste bad or, even worse, are poisonous. The good news is you can enjoy these flavorful wild greens without becoming a foraging expert. Certain grocery stores and farmers markets occasionally carry them. For example, I found these beautiful dandelion leaves at the market.
Dandelion greens are super nutritious. They are rich in iron and calcium and loaded with vitamins A, C and K. They can be a tad bitter but, when cooked, their sharp flavor gets milder. In this springtime recipe, I added dandelion greens to an orzotto, which is barley (orzo, in Italian) cooked the exact same way as rice in a more traditional risotto–by toasting the grain with sautéed onion or shallot, and then adding wine, followed by broth. The mascarpone cheese is a last-minute addition I made to further mitigate the bitterness of the dandelion greens. The orzotto turned out perfect: creamy, fresh, and delicate.
Orzotto al tarassaco e mascarpone
Servings: 2 | Prep time: 10 min | Cook time: 30 min
- 1 lt (32 oz) vegetable broth
- a small bunch of dandelion greens, roughly chopped
- a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
- ¼ cup shallot, chopped
- 3/4 cup quick-cooking barley (I used Trader Joe’s 10-min barley)
- (optional) ¼ cup dry white wine
- ¼ cup mascarpone cheese
- a handful of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated
- freshly ground black pepper
- Bring vegetable broth to a boil in a saucepan. Add dandelion greens in it and cook for 3-4 minutes. Remove them from the saucepan with a strainer and set aside. Keep broth simmering throughout the recipe.
- In a separate heavy-bottom saucepan, heat butter and extra-virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add chopped shallot, and sauté until translucent.
- [Take note of the time, as I’ll use this exact moment as reference (*)] Turn the heat to medium-high, add the barley and toast it for a couple of minutes, stirring frequently. Pour in the wine (or ¼ cup of broth) and cook until absorbed.
- Turn the heat to medium-low. Add a ladle of broth and let the barley absorb the liquid, stirring occasionally. Once the liquid is absorbed, add a ladle of broth again. [Repeat this step throughout the recipe, letting the barley absorb each addition of broth.]
- 6-7 minutes in (*), add dandelion. Stir. Keep on adding broth as it gets absorbed by the barley.
- 16-17 minutes in (*), stop adding broth. Let the barley absorb the last bit of liquid.
- 20-25 minutes in (*), the barley should be creamy and al dente. Remove from heat and stir in mascarpone until melted. Add parmesan cheese and, only if necessary, a bit of salt. Stir vigorously for about a minute to make orzotto ever creamier. Let rest for 2-3 minutes.
- Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper. Serve hot.
Thanks to http://www.veryeatalian.com. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.