Bitterly Delicious Dandelions
Tender, toothsome greens help tame spring fever.
Chef Louis Le Gassic of The Terrace Room shows off dandelion greens.
Photo by Lori Eanes
Gathered predominantly in early March, young dandelion greens are among the first edible offerings from the spring ground, and both their color and tangy, deep-green bite can be good medicine after a long winter.
In fact, they are good medicine. Global, pervasive, so abundant as to be considered a weed in the American suburban landscape, dandelions are in fact an esteemed herbal remedy in both Eastern and Western cultures. Their leaves and roots provide diuretic properties, not to mention impressive amounts of iron, potassium, calcium, and vitamins A, C, and K.
They are also surprisingly delicious with good olive oil, garlic, and a nicely poached egg.
Chef Louis Le Gassic of Oakland’s Terrace Room restaurant has spent his long Bay Area career (he was with now-closed BayWolf for 18 years) evoking the clean flavors and techniques of the Mediterranean. For Le Gassic, summer is a time for the cuisines of Italy and Spain, with their many tomatoes and peppers. In winter, he channels the gratins and heavier dishes of France, then sticks to that country for inspiration in early spring.
“March is a time when you want a salad, but you want one that takes care of you,” he says.
In France, young dandelions are prized and celebrated, their greens tossed raw in salads or sautéed. The word “dandelion” is derived from the French—a bastardization of “dent de lion,” or “tooth of the lion,” in reference to the plant’s jagged leaves. Le Gassic’s Lyonnaise-style salad balances the warm, sharp tang of sautéed dandelion greens with bacon, garlic croutons, and a red-wine vinaigrette.
Add two poached eggs and you have soft, spilling flavor over earthy, a warm, nourishing spring dish with a touch of winter heft that, Le Gassic assures, is as good for breakfast or lunch as it is as a first dinner course.
The Terrace Room Restaurant, 1800 Madison St., Oakland, 510-903-3771, www.TheTerraceRoom.com.
Recipe from Chef Louis Le Gassic
2 bunches of fresh dandelion greens, preferably young
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup red wine
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 sprig fresh thyme
2 shallots, minced
4 slices bacon
1/4 baguette loaf, cubed small
Extra virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove stems from dandelion greens and pick over. In medium skillet, heat red wine vinegar, shallot, red wine, 1 garlic clove, and thyme sprig until simmering. Continue to cook until reduced by half. Remove from heat and let cool. Meanwhile, place bacon on sheet pan and bake until just crispy, drain, and reserve the fat. Toss bread cubes in olive oil and garlic and bake until golden brown. Finish the vinaigrette by whisking in bacon fat and a little olive oil. Bring a pot of water to a boil, turn off the heat and add white wine vinegar. Carefully crack eggs into water, one at a time, and cover to poach until whites are set. In medium skillet, sauté heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil on medium heat, add second garlic clove until just golden, then add dandelion greens. Cook until just wilted, add red-wine vinaigrette, bacon, croutons, and toss to combine. Plate greens, top with poached eggs, and serve warm.