Friday, May 6, 2011

Dandelion Pesto and Roasted Beets

I love receiving boxes from Door to Door Organics, but sometimes the substitute feature can get the best of me. Some items will never be allowed to deliver (like raspberries....ick), but other times I waffle between the items I know and items I've never tried. Imagine my dilemma when my Friday morning email announced that there would be dandelion greens in my box.

"Weeds?" I thought, rather taken aback. What on earth was I supposed to do with weeds?

I could've easily substituted the item out for an innocuous lime, or maybe a few bananas; instead, I chose to boldly go where no--well, me--had gone before. I was going to anti-chef the hell out of these weeds.

First, let's go over how they taste. They taste like bitter grass, of all things. Pretty much how I had figured weeds would taste. The bitterness was a little more nuanced, though, with an almost almond finish. Very unique. I opted to go the easy route and turn the dandelion greens into pesto. So I did.

The thing about dandelion leaves is the bitterness increases exponentially as they are chopped and processed. In the batch I came up with, the pesto bordered on too bitter for human consumption alone. Paired with a four-cheese ravioli, however, it was perfect. It also made an excellent smear for bagels, as well as the perfect compliment to an over-easy egg.

I think for more general use, I'd prefer to use half dandelion greens and half basil. For a first attempt, though, I'm pretty happy with the outcome.

For my second feat, I had also received a batch of beets in my organic box. These were much easier to prepare, as you'll see below. Roasted beets have a flavor somewhere between potatoes and carrots, which makes them very easy on the palate. Plus, they are pretty!

Dandelion Pesto:

2 c dandelion leaves, washed and cut into 1" pieces
1/4 c lemon thyme
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 c olive oil, additional to achieve smooth texture if needed
1/2 c macademia nuts
2 tsp light agave nectar
1 tsp lemon zest
juice from 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 c Parmesan cheese, grated


Place about of the dandelion greens, thyme, garlic, and the 1/2 c olive oil into the food processor. Pulse chop for about a minute, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the remaining greens and continue to pulse until finely chopped up.

Add remaining ingredients and process until smooth, drizzling in additional olive oil if necessary. Makes about 1 1/2 cups pesto. Store tightly covered in the fridge for up to a week.

Roasted Beets with Herbs

4 large beets, tops removed
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 springs fresh rosemary, stems discarded and leaves minced
2 tbs fresh lemon thyme leaves
2 tbs light olive oil
juice from half a lemon
salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 400F. Peel beets and cut into 1 1/2" cubes. In an 8x8 glass dish, toss beets with garlic, herbs, and oil until thoroughly coated. Cover with foil and roaste in oven for 45 minutes. Uncover, stir, and roast (uncovered) an additional 15 minutes, or until fork tender. Just before serving, toss with lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes 4 side dish servings. Can be served hot or cold!

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