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Roasted Daikon Soup with Dandelion Greens

Mar 02

From The Whole Bowl: Gluten-free, Dairy-free Soups and Stewsby Rebecca Wood and Leda Scheintaub. Countryman Press, 2015.

While the dandelion greens found year round at the greengrocers work well in this soup, for a special springtime delicacy, I encourage you to forage dandelions so that you can also feast on their hearts and buds.

DaikonDandelionSoup

Early spring dandelions are sweeter than leaves from a plant that has blossomed and set seed. In the fall, the leaves are again less bitter than in midseason. Cultivated dandelion greens from the store are less bitter than the wild ones, but in both cases you’ll want to nibble on a leaf to ascertain its tang and gage how much to include in your dish. If the taste is too bitter for your liking, parboiling resolves this. By the way, dandelions are among the healthiest of greens.

Roasting so brings out the sweetness in daikon that daikon alone serves as good enough excuse to roast a chicken. But if there’s nothing else to fill the oven, conserve energy by baking the daikon in your toaster oven. And, if you wish, bake it a day in advance, as once the daikon is cooked and the greens are at hand, putting this soup together is a snap. Roasting mellows the daikon’s pungency so that, along with its increased sweetness, it nicely tames dandelion’s bitter note. The drizzle of hazelnut makes a fine finish.

So people can adjust the soup to their taste, serve with lemon as sour (in addition to the sweet, pungent, and salty tastes already contained in this soup) moderates the bitterness.

Serves 4

1 large daikon, about 12 inches
6 cups stock

1 teaspoon unrefined salt, or to taste
8 ounces (about 4 cups) dandelion greens, chopped

4 scallions, white and green parts, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
Unrefined hazelnut oil or extra-virgin olive oil

4 lemon slices

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Place the whole daikon on a baking sheet and roast for 1 hour, or until softened but still firm. Remove from the oven and cool. Peel and discard the skin, then dice the daikon.

Place the daikon in a large saucepan and add the stock and salt. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Add the dandelion greens, cover, reduce the heat, and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the scallions and season with pepper; taste and adjust the salt as needed.

Spoon into bowls, drizzle with oil, and serve each bowl with a slice of lemon.

Dandelion Hearts (Crowns)

Mar 02

The top of a dandelion’s taproot, its heart or crown, is a tasty nibble that, while money can’t buy, is free for the taking. In texture, color, and taste dandelion hearts are reminiscent of the base or heart of a head of celery, only with a light bitter-sweet dandelion essence. Adorning the crown are pearl-sized nascent buds, which make a creamy smooth nibble. Once the buds become as large as a thumbnail, they’re less toothsome and so not used.

dandelionCrowns

Look close and you can see three “crowns” with their jade colored buds that sit atop the tap root and have the most tender leaves. Every spring, I feast upon these succulent  hearts and “jewels.” It’s a treat that money can’t buy.

In March (in temperate regions) when dandelions start setting leaf, but before their characteristic yellow blossoms appear, grab a small paring knife or a sturdy spoon and forage from an environmentally clean area. Find a cluster of dandelion greens and carve a cone-shaped piece of the crown right from the center of their leafy rosette, leaving the root (and most of the dirt) still in the ground.

Slice the hearts, add it to your soup or stir-fry, and cook for a few minutes or until tender. Then add the buds along with the greens for the last minute or two of cooking. Be forewarned: Once you try dandelion hearts and buds, odds are you’ll have acquired a new springtime ritual.

Also see Dandelion Greens for information about their remarkable energetic and medicinal properties.  Once the plant blossoms, here’s how to preserve their blossoms in honey.