Flash back to a trip to Greece a few years ago. It was so hot when I was there, that by necessity, we were on the Greek salad diet most of the time. Come July and August, when my father has a garden full of tomatoes, I will be reminded of that lovely trip as I eat tomatoes chopped with cucumbers, olives, peppers, and feta, drizzled with olive oil, lemon and a sprinkling of oregano. If you need a recipe, Smitten Kitchen currently has one you'll love.
The one exception to cool summer salads I couldn't get enough of when island hopping through Greece was dandelion greens. I couldn't believe I had never eaten them before.
They're one of the first greens to appear in the farmers' market in the spring. If you're trying to cook a bit more to improve your health, give them a try. Dandelion greens are rich in vitamins and minerals, particularly calcium, phosphorous and Vitamin A. According to a recent article in The New York Times, "wild dandelions, once a springtime treat for Native Americans, have seven times more phytonutrients than spinach, which we consider a 'superfood.'" Phytonutrients are natural chemicals in plant foods that may help prevent a variety of diseases including cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
Be prepared for a taste that's a little bitter. Traditionally, Greeks boil their wild greens or horta, but they're also delicious sauteed with garlic, olive oil and a bit of salt and lemon. For a nice gluten-free vegetarian main course, add them to a summer rice salad. Use arborio or brown basmati rice.
GREEK DANDELION AND ARBORIO RICE SALAD
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch dandelion, rinsed and roughly chopped
1 bulb garlic, minced
2 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon capers
1/4 cup chopped kalamata olives
1 tablespoon pine nuts, lightly toasted
Juice of 1 lemon
Pinch of red pepper flakes