Sunday, March 7, 2010

Dandelion Greens with Almond Vinaigrette and Ricotta Salata

I've really been getting into bitter greens lately. Swiss chard, mustard greens, radicchio, endive -- either in salads or cooked they really hold their own against sharply-flavoured accompaniments and are so much more interesting and flavourful than the veggies I usually cook with.

Tonight I tried dandelion greens for the first time in a simple but tasty salad from Lidia Bastianich. As is often the case, a few good-quality ingredients are all you need for a delicious dish. I particularly loved the almond vinaigrette dressing. Thought it sounded strange at first, until I read the recipe. You toast slivered almonds in the oven until they're golden brown and have that gorgeous toasted nut aroma. Then you take half of them and puree them in a blender or food processor with the rest of the dressing elements (red wine vinegar, honey, olive oil, salt and pepper), saving the other half for garnish. The resulting dressing is absolutely divine -- still warm, with a wonderful buttery depth of flavour from the pulverized almonds. Though you could easily make the dressing in advance and refrigerate it, there's something so nice about a salad served with warm vinaigrette.

I served this salad with a couple of oven-toasted and buttered slices of Yukon Gold-White Cheddar foccacia that I picked up earlier in the day. A light supper, to be sure, but satisfying.

Dandelion Greens with Almond Vinaigrette and Ricotta Salata

1 pound tender, young dandelion greens (about 10 loosely packed cups)
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 pound ricotta salata, cut into shards with a vegetable peeler

Cut any tough stems from the greens and trim any wilted, yellow, or tough leaves. The greens can be prepared up to several hours in advance and kept, loosely covered with a clean towel, in the refrigerator.

To make the dressing, combine the olive oil, 2 tablespoons of the toasted almonds, vinegar, and honey in a blender and blend until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Place the greens in a large bowl, season them with salt and pepper, and pour the dressing over them. Toss well and divide the dressed greens among six plates, mounding them in the center of the plate.

Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of toasted almonds and top with shavings of ricotta salata. Serve immediately.

Serves 6.

Recipe from Lidia Matticchio Bastianich, Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen, Random House, found on Epicurious, March 2009

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