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
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the rice and cook uncovered until tender but firm, about 18-20 minutes.
2. Drain and put the rice in a bowl and set aside.
3. Saute the chopped dandelion in olive oil. Add garlic towards the end. Add to the bowl of rice along with the other ingredients.
4. Toss all the ingredients until the rice is thoroughly coated. Add more lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.
5. In the meantime, I'd do anything to be sitting under this tree by the beach again, eating my freshly caught fish, boiled dandelion greens and a mess of gigantes, and watching the sun set.