I remember walking through the Calabrian countryside with my grandfather as a boy when he suddenly feel to his knees and plucked a few pieces of what I thought was simple green grass from the ground. I, of course, thought he was just being his usual pazzo (crazy) nonno,but what he found were dandelion greens, prized for their earthy, minerally, and zesty flavor.
Like many prized goods in the food world, the best ingredients are often found in the wild and prepared without much manipulation. Calabria is famous for wild mushrooms (click here to read my guide on finding wild mushrooms), chestnuts, asparagus, roasted wild boar, etc. and it’s part of what makes the southern most province in Italy (along with Sicilia) such a special region. Hence my simple mantra: wild food is great food (let the French have their fancy manipulated fair).
You can, of course, find wild dandelions in most suburban lawns here in the US, but the flavor component is not the same. I have, however, found some good “wild” dandelion greens at local markets during the Spring season. You can sauté dandelions, but I like them in a simple salad with a good red wine vinegar/extra virgin olive oil dressing and thinly sliced red onion. You can also try a vinaigrette dressing (here’s my recipe).
Kidney Bean and Corn Salad / Pesto Tuna
My kidney bean salad is comprised of diced green beans, corn, red onion, parsley, carrot, kidney beans, extra virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice, freshly ground black pepper, and kosher salt.
Our pesto tuna salad is simply comprised of homemade pesto sauce (see recipe) and good quality Italian tuna packed in olive oil (the best is imported from Italy and canned in Sicily; here’s our overview of canned tuna in olive oil).
The above meal goes well with a rustic homemade wine.