Friday, March 18, 2011

Dandelion Bread Pudding with Sundried Tomatoes and Gruyere Cheese

Dandelions are my all time favorite plant - little miracles that are often misunderstood. Every part of the dandelion can be used for good:

1) The flowers can be fried, jellied, used for wine and salads.
2) The stems can be used for medicines, teas, coffees and juice.
3) The roots are used for teas and coffees, medicinal rubs and tonics.
4) The blossoms are used for decor, salads, and side dishes.
5) The leaves have more Vitamin C than lettuce, and more iron than spinach and can be boiled, steamed or eaten in a salad raw.

Dandelion Bread Pudding
Sundried Tomatoes and Gruyere Cheese

Dandelion (from the word Dente Lion) means tooth of the Lion; named because of the jagged shape of its leaves.
This is a plant that is independent and can grow with only the tiniest bit of light and space, even under rocks, and it can send it's seeds on the wind more than 5 miles away to carry on with life.
Centuries ago, folks pulled grass out of their property lands so that dandelions could grow. Now, people spend millions of dollars on poisonous pesticides to remove dandelions and have more uniform lawns, only to go to grocery stores and purchase "exotic" salads that contain organic dandelion greens. The "universe", surely, must have a sense of humor.

For a couple years, I've been holding "Dandelion Salons" in my home. It's a throw-back to the French Salons of hundreds of years ago when invited guests would gather to talk about art, politics, and ideas while eating and drinking (and eating and drinking) for hours. It has been a natural merging of my artistic careers with my culinary career and a built in group of "guinea pigs" for my recipe developing (shhhh.) The dandelion became my icon for the salon because of it's natural metaphor for encouraging ART and the strength it has to seek the light against all odds, even those that would vote/fight/teach or organize to suppress it.In the past, we've had script readings, interactive art therapy, singers and song writers, poetry, non-fiction personal journal readings, favorite passages, and film shorts shared along with a table full of food and drinks. The consistent food item is always something with...Dandelions!
The most recent Dandelion Salon was a reading of a television script written by Victor Rivers . A group of actors and guests read the script so Victor could get a feel for needed rewrites, what worked and what didn't. Victor and his wife, Mim Rivas, are both writers and understand how important it can be to hear your work out loud, outside of your head, before attempting another rewrite. Victor is also the National Spokesperson for the National Network to End Domestic Violence. His life story is very moving and told in his Memoir, A Private Family Matter .
Some of the other Dandelion recipes have included: Dandelion Pasta w/Limoncello Sauce, Dandelion Salad w/Roasted Beets and Walnut Vinaigrette, and Toasted Oat Scones w/Dandelion Jelly, and of course, Dandelion Wine. This most recent Salon was a little earlier in the day and I wanted to develop a recipe for this week's Let's Lunch group (a global wide gathering of food bloggers that have virtual lunch together every month through our food blogs.) This month we are celebrating Spring and Small Bites. That's how this savory Dandelion Bread Pudding w/ Sundried Tomato and Gruyere came into my life.

RECIPE: Dandelion Bread Pudding w/Sundried Tomato and Gruyere Cheese

1 Bunch Dandelion Greens (washed, dried and chopped)
1 Onion (chopped small)
2 garlic cloves (minced)
1/4 cup Sundried Tomatoes (chopped if large)
1 Tsp. Dried Red Pepper Flakes
2 eggs
1 1/4 cup Heavy Cream
1 cup Gruyere Cheese (grated or chopped fine)
3 cups Day-Old Bread (cubed) [if using fresh, cube and toast]

1) In a large skillet, heat a drizzle of olive oil and add the onions, garlic, red pepper flakes, and sundried tomatoes - cook on Med. until soft (about 5-8 mins).

2) Add the Dandelion greens, salt and pepper, stir and heat until wilted. Then hold to the side off the heat.

3) In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream and shredded cheese, then add the bread cubes to soak.

4) Add the Dandelion mixture into the bowl with the cream and bread, fold to incorporate.

5) Pour the contents into a 13x9inch baking dish, and bake in a preheated oven on 350F for about 45 mins - 1 hour or until set. Allow some of the bread cubes to stick out the top for a crunchy, crispy topping. **Optionally, sprinkle more cheese on top for a golden cheesy topping**
To serve: Cut into squares, or use biscuit cutters for making small plate servings.

For MORE Spring Small Plate ideas and recipes, check out these talented Let's Lunch Bloggers:

Chery's Popiah- Singaporean Spring Rolls at A Tiger In The Kitchen

Ellise‘s Bite-Size Black Pepper-Strawberry Scones at Cowgirl Chef

Emma‘s Radish Phyllo Cups at Dreaming of Pots and Pans

Karen‘s Sushi (with a video demonstration!) at Geofooding

Linda‘s Breakfast Cookies at Free Range Cookies

Here's more about Victor Rivers and NNEDV:

Victor Rivers National Spokesperson for the National Network to End Domestic Violence

When Victor speaks about the issue of domestic violence, he tells the heartbreaking story of a twelve year old boy who went to his local police department seeking help. There the boy disrobed for the officers and showed them the cuts, bruises, welts and burns that covered his body, telling how his father had been doing this to him, his siblings and even worse to his mother. Though the officers were horrified to hear about incidents of domestic violence that were on the level of torture, they told the boy there was little they could do. It was, they said, a private family matter. The year was 1967 and the boy was Victor himself.


Chez Us said...

Hi, I am also part of the Let's Lunch group; but, did not get a chance (darn work) to participate this month. Now I am nibbling through everyone's delicious light lunches.

I did not know so much about dandelions or as we call them wish dandies. I knew you could eat the leafy greens, but did not know about the flower. Very interesting. I wish you lived closer, I'd love to check out on of your salons.

Great post!!

ATigerInTheKitchen said...

These look so beautiful! And now I so want to come to one of your dandelion salons. (Love how I'm inviting myself.) Thanks for this post. It does look like the perfect food for spring...xx

Nancy said...

I loved all the wonderful information on dandelions!!! I've enjoyed the greens in salads but I've never had a dish with "just" the greens and now I am intrigued to try them!

Also love the idea of these "salons" - you are just too darn creative!!!

Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen said...

I've never had dandelions before, nor did I know that they were so good for you either! I'm totally intrigued now, and I'm going to have to try some.

Susan said...

Loved the education on dandelions and the recipe to include them for a light lunch over conversation. Had no idea about dandelion salons and have to learn more now. You have such innovative and tasty recipes. An inspiration to all!

Anonymous said...

This is spectacular. Such beautiful photos and such a truly amazing new perspective on the dandelion! And to think I've always looked at them as little yellow pests.

Cowgirl Chef said...

A wonderful recipe and story, too. I love that you made such an elegant dish with something that most people yank from the ground and toss away. Dandelions are so under-appreciated. A friend of mine here told me recently about how her father picks the very small, very young greens growing near their house in Geneva and makes the most amazing salads each spring.

oneordinaryday said...

What an interesting recipe! I remember my neighbor going out into her yard and digging up dandelions for dishes when I was a kid. Happy you've given the humble dandelion a chance to shine. :)

Pami Sami said...

I just discovered your blog! Loved this post, but just a little correction if I may. Your 4th picture is actually no dandelion, its a similar plant, more bitter and therefor not that apreciated...
Dandelion flower are singular an big.

Anonymous said...

That picture with the fluffy seed head looks more like a sonchus (sow thistle) than a dandelion. Both are edible.