i have a general rule about my participation in yard work (that i recently ignored at my own peril) and it is thus: if i can’t eat it, i don’t want to spend time on it.
now, those of you who don’t know me well might be tempted to think that this means i have a bunch of lovely raised beds out in the yard, sprouting up all kinds of delicious vegetables, perhaps a few blueberry bushes lining the edge of the yard, and then an apple or pear tree to provide some shade in addition to tasty baked goods come fall.
aaaaand you’d be totally wrong. (sorry) i *wish* i had some berry-producing blueberry bushes (they’re low maintenance, right? i have no idea about these things…) and sometimes i even wish that i wanted to have a vegetable garden, until i remember that such a thing would involve dirt, bugs, and time spent in the sun. all set thanks.
what i do have is a total of 4 small house plants (two are edible herbs and the other two were gifts…). and a LOT of dandelions. like, a lot a lot.
in an effort to tip the balance in favor of having more edible plants, i decided it would be easier to just expand what plants i consider edible, rather than try to tame the borderline-chaos that is our yard.
and that is how this dandelion greens, figs, toasted hazelnuts, and bacon salad came to be. well, my lackadaisical attitude towards our yard combined with a yummy salad i had at a restaurant recently.
i basically took all of the tasty bits from that salad (bacon, toasted hazelnuts, and crunchy shaved brussels sprouts) and replaced arugula with dandelion greens and dried cranberries with some dried calimyrna figs the nice folks over at valley fig growers sent me.
oh! and i did do a quick google search to confirm that dandelion greens are edible, assuming you get them from somewhere you can be sure they haven’t been sprayed with terrible chemicals or used as a dog bathroom (like my backyard – a quick glance makes it pretty clear we’re chemical free).
my search also revealed that we might pass for trendy: bon appétit recently ran a story about eating dandelions. i feel so fancy. (and so thrifty, since vendors at the farmers’ market are selling bunches of dandelions for $3 and i’m just popping out the back door and grabbing a handful of weeds. hooray urban foraging!)
don’t worry though, i’m not going to get too trendy, since i’m pretty sure you can’t be an urban homesteader if you refuse to engage with plants that don’t grow on their own and have a borderline-pathological fear of ticks and the sun…
- 1/3 cup (40 g. / 1 ½ oz.) hazelnuts
- 227 g. / 8 oz. brussels sprouts
- handful of dandelion greens, pulled from a chemical/dog free area (see notes), then washed and patted dry
- 2 slices bacon
- ½ cup (62 g. / 2 1/8 oz.) dried calimyrna figs, roughly chopped, see notes
- zest of 1 lemon
- juice of 1 lemon
- 2 – 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- preheat the oven to 350° F. spread the hazelnuts out in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. (the hazelnuts i buy from trader joe’s are already toasted, but they are pale so i toast them again.) toast the hazelnuts for 10 minutes, then take the pan out of the oven, shake it around to turn the nuts, and put the pan back in the oven. if your nuts were ostensibly already toasted, they may only need another 2 – 5 minutes. if they were raw to start, they may need a few more minutes than that. regardless of how they started out, you want to roast them until they are the color of milky coffee under their skins and always remember the golden rule of toasting nuts: as soon as you smell them, you need to drop what you are doing and check on them immediately to make sure they don’t burn. let the nuts cool on the baking sheet for about 10 minutes. to remove the skins from the hazelnuts, place them in a clean kitchen towel that you don’t mind tossing in the laundry pile after this and rub them vigorously in the towel between your hands. transfer to a cutting board and roughly chop the hazelnuts.
- trim the ends off the brussels sprouts then put them through the food processor, fitted with the slicing blade. after the brussels sprouts are sliced, wash and dry them (a salad spinner is helpful here, but not essential).
- put the dandelion greens in a large, heat safe bowl. in a large skillet, heat the bacon over medium/medium-low heat for a few minutes, turning occasionally, until it is crispy. set the bacon strips on a paper towel lined plate to cool and immediately pour the bacon grease over the dandelion greens to wilt them a bit. toss the greens around so they get evenly coated. once the strips of bacon are cool, crumble them into pieces.
- zest the lemon into a small glass jar with a tight-fitting lid (a microplane zester works well). squeeze the lemon juice into the jar. i then eyeball it and add a roughly equal amount of extra virgin olive oil to the jar, give it a good shake, then taste it. i like a fairly bracing lemon flavor for my dressings so you may wish to add more olive oil. if you’re not using a glass jar, start with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, then whisk and taste, adjusting as needed.
- to the bowl with the dandelion greens, add the brussels sprouts, hazelnuts, figs, and bacon. pour about half of the dressing over the salad and toss well, adding more dressing if desired. serve immediately. leftovers keep surprisingly well for an already dressed salad for about a day (tightly covered in the fridge). i like to let the leftovers warm up on the counter for a few minutes so that the bacon fat isn’t such a solid coating on the greens.
regarding “sourcing” your dandelion greens, the bon appétit article has some tips on things to watch out for (soils with lead, etc.) – check it out if you’re new to foraging or just want to be on the safe side. alternatively, you could substitute arugula for dandelion greens.
i liked the flavor of dried calimyrna figs in this salad but dried black mission figs would also work well here.
adapted from a salad i had at 7 central in manchester-by-the-sea, MA.
valley fig growers kindly sent me some of their figs to try. all opinions in this (and every) post are my own.
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