Wild Spring Salad with Chickweed, Bittercress, Bacon and Fresh Mandarin Oranges

Chickweed is the star of, and reason for, this salad. The bittercress plays a supporting role as it just happened to be growing through a patch of Chickweed in my yard. The flavors of the two greens compliment each other beautifully. Finding them together was like foraging a ready-made salad mix. These two greens together would be great with no other company, but I had seedlings in the garden that needed to be thinned: pea sprouts and baby pak choi. So, I tossed a handful of the garden seedlings in with the wild salad greens.

I recently posted about foraging for Chickweed and promised to share a recipe on my original Chickweed post When Morels are Nowhere to be Found; Winner, Winner, Chickweed Dinner.  This is that recipe.

There are a few ingredients in this salad that require prep work: toasting, caramelizing and frying (bacon of course). The prep work is simple, just a bit time-consuming. The finished salad is worth it.. There is something incredibly satisfying about a plate of tiny leaves mingling with crunchy flavor. It’s so fun to eat and so very pretty.

Makes 2-3 servings

Ingredients 

  • 4 Cups Mixed spring greens (I used 2cups chickweed tips, 1/2 cup seedling greens and 1/2 cup bittercress)
  • 3 slices bacon
  • 1 fresh mandarin orange or clementine
  • 1/4 Cup toasted pecans
  • shaved parmesan cheese for garnish

Dressing

  • 3 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Teaspoon sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoon finely diced caramelized sweet onion
  • Zest from 1/2 mandarin orange

Directions

  • Chop bacon in to small pieces and fry until crispy.  Reserve 1 TBS of bacon grease for cooking the onion.
  • Dice and slowly caramelize a small sweet onion in 1TBS bacon grease. It should take at least 25 minutes of low heat to beautifully caramelize sweet onion. You only need 1 1/2 TBS for this recipe, but it doesn’t make much sense to cook such a small amount. Store the extra caramelized onion in your refrigerator, use it in pasta, pizza, as burger toppings, or in your next recipe that calls for onions. After the onion is cooked, finely dice 1 1/2 TBS.
  • While your onion is slowly cooking, clean and trim your fresh greens. I only used the tender tips of the chickweed and the small bitter cress leaves. I have read that the stems and flowers of both are edible, I tasted them, and felt like I was eating grass. Just because something is edible, doesn’t mean it is enjoyable.
  • Toast and coarsely chop 1/4 cup pecans.
  • For the dressing: Combine apple cider vinegar, salt, pepper, sugar and caramelized onion. Whisk in olive oil and add the zest from 1/2 of the mandarin orange.
  • Peal the orange, tear apart and toss the sections in with the greens. If you really wanted to make this spectacular, you could segment the orange. Although I rarely  have time for that level of refinement in my kitchen.
  • When you are ready to serve, toss all ingredients together. Garnish with shaved Parmesan or Pecorino cheese.

 

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