Although this dish features cowpeas and French dandelion greens, you could use most any wild spring greens you have. French dandelion greens feature extra-large, succulent leaves; seeds of this and other cultivated dandelion varieties can be purchased to grow in the garden.
The 14th-century health guide Tacuinum Sanitatis shows a woman gathering wild lettuce, which would have been cooked in a pot with legumes to make a healthful meal. This recipe is in that tradition. I like it not just because it is delicious and perfect on a cold, rainy day, but also because you can substitute most any other wild edible green for the dandelion. If you have a bit of leftover Easter ham, consider adding it to the stock for extra flavor. MAKES 6 TO 8 SERVINGS
• 3 cups cowpeas (black-eyed peas)
• 3 tablespoons oil, bacon drippings or butter
• 2 cups chopped onion
• 4 cups ham or other meat stock
• 1 cup short-grain rice, preferably Arborio
• 4 cups chopped dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) greens, or more to taste
• Salt and pepper to taste
• Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
1. Put cowpeas in a deep work bowl, then add boiling water to cover them. Let cowpeas stand about 40 minutes, or until fully swollen. Drain and set aside.
2. Heat oil in a deep stewing pan and add onion. Cover and cook over medium heat about 3 minutes. Add prepared cowpeas, stock and rice. Cook over medium heat 20 to 25 minutes, or until cowpeas are tender and rice is soft. Stir in chopped dandelion; when leaves turn bright green, remove pan from the heat, adjust seasonings and serve. If you like, scatter grated cheese on top.
William Woys Weaver is a food historian, author and contributing editor for Mother Earth News and Gourmet magazines. He gardens, cooks and writes from his home in southeastern Pennsylvania.
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