Last week, I ate dandelions for lunch.
Yes, those dandelions. The bright yellow flowers that you used to pick as a kid and whose seeds you likely spread in an attempt to conjure whatever your 8-year-old self might have wished for.
Dandelion salad is one of the recipes in Georgia Pellegrini’s new book, "Modern Pioneering: More Than 150 Recipes, Projects, and Skills for a Self-Sufficient Life" (Clarkson Potter, $24), her third and widest appealing to date. The New York native moved to Austin about two and a half years ago, just as her stardom was rising with "Girl Hunter," a 2011 manifesto about killing what you eat that landed her on Jimmy Kimmel and just about every national morning show on TV.
In today’s food section, I introduce readers to Pellegrini, who is more than a pretty girl who likes to shoot guns. As we walked through her neighborhood to gather dandelion greens for the salad, we had a really interesting conversation about just how much technology and geographic dispertion changes our relationship with nature and why we could all use a little more childlike wonder in our day-to-day lives.
But what really amazed me was how delicious this slightly wilted dandelion salad was. I was expecting a plate of soggy bitter greens, but short cooking time for the greens and the addition of the salty pancetta, crunchy nuts and red onions made for one of the best meals I had all week.
Pellegrini is teaming up with Austin Tidbits for a book signing event from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the W Austin’s rooftop deck that will feature cocktails and a demonstration on how to make tinted lip gloss. Tickets cost $40 and include a copy of the book. You can buy tickets and find information at gotidbits.com/austin.
Dandelion Green Salad with Pancetta and Pistachios
Dandelion greens are incredibly nutritious, with more protein than spinach and a high calcium and iron content. You will find them in early spring and summer in fields, in gardens and wherever you see bright yellow dandelions. The leaves have sharp triangular points, and the stem excretes a milky sap when torn. If you come upon dandelions but no daylilies, feel free to substitute any other edible flowers or leave them out altogether. Dandelion greens can be too bitter for some palates, but no more than other greens like arugula, escarole, endive or watercress, which are an easy substitution if you can’t find dandelion greens. You could even use spinach in a pinch.
1/4 cup diced pancetta or guanciale (or bacon)
4 Tbsp. unsalted pistachios
2 cups chopped dandelion greens
Daylily or dandelion flowers
1/4 medium red onion, very thinly sliced or shaved
In a medium saute pan, render the guanciale or pancetta over low heat until it becomes crispy, stirring regularly, about 10 minutes. Add the pistachios and stir for about two minutes more.
Add the dandelion greens, flowers and onions, and remove them from the heat.
Toss the contents of the pan in the pork fat until the greens and onions wilt slightly, then transfer to a large bowl or platter and serve warm. Serves 4 as a side dish.
— From "Modern Pioneering: More Than 150 Recipes, Projects, and Skills for a Self-Sufficient Life" by Georgia Pellegrini (Clarkson Potter, $24)