This is one case where BITTER is definitely BETTER. Meals in Rome and other parts of Italy are often accompanied by a side dish of bitter greens. There are several varieties of chicory or dandelion greens that are used, and the foil of rich meat or grilled fish against a bracingly bitter vegetable is a classic mouthful of flavor. I happen to like bitter greens these days (though not always) so I was intrigued by the rather vibrant bunch of “Italian Dandelion” that I spotted at the Teraoka family farms stall at the recent Philippine Harvest bazaar. I bought two bunches…
The leaves struck me as being a bit bigger than they should have been, either a result of our bright sunny hot weather at the moment, or they were left too long before harvest. So I expected that what is normally bitter, even for Romans, would be even bitter-er, if you can imagine that.
When we returned home, I immediately cut off the tougher ends of the stems, near the roots, and soaked the greens in cool water for 30 minutes or so, to rehydrate the leaves. I find this a useful step in our incredibly hot and humid weather. It’s amazing how lively your greens will look after the soak. Store in the fridge until ready to use. Cut the greens into 2-3 inch pieces.
If I were using younger more tender greens, I wouldn’t bother with this next step, which was to blanch the greens in salted boiling water for say 30 seconds or so, to tenderize the stems a bit more, and perhaps modulate the likely bitterness factor. Drain well.
Into a medium sized pan, add some olive oil and several cloves of garlic and saute until lightly browned. Add the dandelion greens and cook for some 5 minutes or so over medium heat (not wok sizzling heat) and salt generously and add some cracked black pepper and dried chili flakes. Take off the heat and serve hot, or at near room temperature, as desired. This batch was WICKED BITTER. I could only manage a third of this small dish of greens, but they were delicious nonetheless.