Dandelion Flower “Meatballs”
The dandelions are up!
People who poison dandelions drive me up the wall. Not only will these awesome and resilient “weeds” eventually develop a resistance to the toxins now saturating your yard, but once you start looking into dandelions you start realizing they’re like the bison of wild foods: every part can be used.
The roots can be roasted and used as a coffee substitute, or baked into brownies. The leaves are delicious spring greens for a salad, or yummy blanched and added to most any vegetable dish. And the flowers: oh, the flowers.
I’ve written before how the dandelion flower is essentially a smaller version of an artichoke:
It’s often used as a dessert dish, or to make wines and sweet jellies, but my interests lean towards the savory. Instead of sticking to the usual treatment and making fried flowers, patties, or fritters, it struck me that the loose texture of the flower petals could be transformed into something with the same consistency and basic flavor profile of a meatball.
Here’s how I did it.
- 5 cups dandelion flowers (approximate) (1)
- A handful of sour greens like sorrel or oxalis or dock (2)
- 3 large chicken eggs (3)
- 1.5 cups flax seed meal
- 1/2 cup cornmeal
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tbsp oregano
- 1 tbsp thyme
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Olive oil for frying
When harvesting the flowers, it doesn’t matter if they’re open or closed, but try to ‘pop’ the heads off so you get as little green as possible. Unless you like the sensation of eating rabbit fur, it’s advisable to avoid dandelions that have begun going to seed. Oh, and be sure to harvest from someplace you’re sure hasn’t been sprayed with Round-Up by some jackass.
When you get your flower heads home, you’ll need to do a little processing. If you’re going for ‘sweet,’ you’ll want to remove all of the green, but since we’re making “meatballs” we want more flavor complexity, which means we should just focus on getting rid of the bracts:
Can this be tedious? Yes, yes it can. However, it’s no more annoying than stringing beans. Grab a couple of containers and get to work!
Here’s how the flowers should look at this point (pic also includes my sour greens, which add an additional level of flavor complexity):
At this point, add the flowers, greens, and garlic to a food processor and pulse until coarsely shredded. You’re not shooting for a paste here — the texture should be nice and loose. A few solid flower heads are fine!
Next, add the eggs, flax meal, and spices. Begin mixing, and incorporate small amounts of cornmeal until the dough has the consistency of ground beef (or a thick jam, if you’ve never felt ground meat). You may not need to use all the cornmeal!
If it gets too dry, you can add a tablespoon of warm water.
When it’s well blended, it should look thusly:
Next, put the mixture in the fridge for at least an hour (maybe overnight?).
Finally, cover the bottom of a heavy skillet with olive oil, and turn to medium until a wooden chopstick bubbles when placed in the oil. Form 1–1/2" or so diameter spheres, and plop ’em in the oil. Brown each side (should take 10 minutes or so), then cover for 3 minutes to make sure the center is cooked through.
Plate, and serve!
These are awesome “naked,” served piping hot with mayo or a sour cream/yogurt dip. You could also add your favorite marinara “gravy” if you want to go full-on Italian style.
Dandelion “meatballs” are so wonderful and delicious, and a fun way to use this amazing resource to create something interesting and unique!
(1) Or, as we refer to it in the industry, a ‘shitload’ of dandelion flowers.
(2) No sour greens? That’s okay! Sub out with 1/8 cup of white vinegar.
(3) Hmmm… 2 duck eggs next time? Ooh, or 8 quail eggs!