When I was in seventh grade we spent an inordinate amount of time in school on symbols. What symbolizes you? Are you a waterfall? A crane? I remember, I chose an otter. Perhaps that was what I aspired to be in 7th grade, a charismatic, happy-go-lucky sort of person seeing as I was really a very focussed, type-A personality.
One of the most common symbols though, was the circle. The circle is like the Earth, like the circle of life, like anything cyclical that exists. The circle was a symbol we could all understand in seventh grade, but a symbol I began to better grasp two years ago, after returning from Honduras. Indeed, it’s just one month before we head out again to Latin America. We’re building houses out of wood this time, not concrete blocks. I must say I’m quite excited to return (and not just because we get to use lighter building material).
The last time I was there my senses were assaulted daily. There was the bright sun, sporadic rain showers, buzz of flies, taste of farmers cheese, plantains, and beans, pain in my stomach that persisted, warm water from water bottles, and the list goes on. All my memories of it are vivid and intense. They remained as such when I stepped off the plane in Miami even as I rejoiced at the clean smell of the airport and the ability to touch most surfaces without fear.
They remained even as I stepped off the bus and as I walked through our church out to the car. They were there as I stood and glanced up at the giant stained glass rose window at the front of the church above the organ. And because they were still so fresh, I felt so strongly the realization that I was in the United States and each person we had met and become close to, was not. It was calm. And I was where I was. I could feel, I knew exactly what was going on back there, and looking up at the circular window the sense of connectedness washed over me. The world seemed so much smaller, and the better for that. I just found myself wishing those people could come here to the U.S. because with that sense of connectivity came the realization of what truly insane luck it was to be here and not back there, with almost no way out.
I rejoice to be able to go back to that vividness, those lush forests, those strong smells. But I’m so so thankful that I have the means and opportunity to come and go as I please when so many don’t.
With that, I give you this recipe for dandelion greens. Dandelion greens can be bitter and are something of an acquired taste. This recipe is an attempt to sweetened them. Enjoy these wonderfully nutrient-rich, in-season greens!
Dandelion Greens with Balsamic Vinegar and Dried Cranberries
Serves 4 or so
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic
dash of cayenne pepper
2 tsp mustard seeds
1/3 cup chopped walnuts or sliced almonds
1 bunch dandelion greens (bottom 2-3 inches cut off and chopped into 2 inch pieces)
3 Tablespoons brown sugar (dark or light)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (or less, depending)
1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries
Salt and pepper to taste
In a sauté pan heat olive oil over medium heat. Add chopped onion and and cook until translucent. Add mustard seeds, garlic, and cayenne and sauté until aromatic. Add dandelion greens, sugar, and walnuts/almonds. Cover, stirring occasionally until just wilted. Uncover, add balsamic vinegar and cranberries, and turn up heat. Cook for a minute or two to combine flavors, then remove from heat and serve.