Linguine with Mussels and Dandelion Greens.

We were very happy to pick a beautiful bunch of dandelion greens. They were promptly drizzled with a little bit of basil oil and devoured.

Dandelions, seen as a noxious weed by some and a source of outdoor entertainment by others (who hasn’t made a wish and blown on a puff of dandelion seeds?) are a tasty and healthful salad green packed with vitamins A &C, iron, and more calcium than spinach. They are commonly used as a salad green, but can also be braised, stewed, and sautéed.

When shopping for greens, look for firm, fresh green leaves. Prepare and wash them as you would any salad green – trim the ends off the stems, and rip them up into bite-sized pieces. Dandelion greens will keep for a few days in a crisper drawer. They have a slightly bitter taste that is quite pleasant.

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For some reason, we often find ourselves shying away from the seafood section at the grocery store. Particularly with shellfish, there’s an intimidation factor that just isn’t there with chicken or steak.

If this sounds like you, mussels are a good place to start overcoming your fear! Cooking them is a snap–all you need to do is scrub off any residual grit, throw them in a pot with a little liquid, and cover with a lid. Wait five minutes and PRESTO! Mussels for dinner.

As a bonus, mussels are incredibly easy to farm-raise sustainable and with little impact on the ocean environment–one of the few shellfish that can still make this claim. They’re also resistant to many of the diseases and bacteria’s that can make us nervous about other shellfish. And at around $5 for two pounds of mussels, they’re budget-friendly, too!

This recipe makes a nice light dish, perfect for a simple spring meal on the back porch. Paired with a refreshing white wine, this could easily be served at an elegant dinner.

Dandelion greens are in season right now and add a bright, bitter flavor to balance the sweet and salty mussels. Choose a summer ale or amber beer for steaming the mussels–IPA’s can end up being too bitter when paired with the greens. White wine is also a fine substitute.

Linguine with Mussels and Dandelion Greens
Serves 4-5

2 pounds mussels
1 package (1 pound) linguine
1 Tablespoon salt
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes, minced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup of beer
1 bunch dandelion greens, cut crosswise into thin ribbons
1 Tablespoon lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Clean all the mussels and debeard by tugging off the brown ‘tag’ coming out of the side of the mussel. (The beard is often removed on farmed mussels, but it’s good to double-check.) If any have their shells open, tap them gently against the countertop. If they don’t close up in a few minutes, discard.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add the salt, and cook the linguine according to the package. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large wide-bottomed skillet or saucepan with a lid. Add the onions and saute until translucent–about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, and red pepper flakes, and saute until fragrant–about 30 seconds.

Add the mussels to the pan, pour in the beer, and cover immediately with the lid. Cook for about five minutes, shaking once or twice until all the shells have opened. Discard any unopened shells.

Add the dandelion greens to the pan and stir occasionally until the greens are wilted. Add the linguine to the pan and toss with mussels and greens. Season with the lemon juice, salt, and pepper.

Serve immediately!

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