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Pampelišky (Dandelions) Greens Salad



I have been thinking about pampelišky (dandelions). A few popped up in the grassy areas around the apartments where I live and they always remind me of the Czech Republic. Three reasons…. first, the word pampelišky is one of my favorite Czech words to say. Second, they remind me of a day in 1996 when I visited a friend living in Brno and we drove to a nearby lake. He went swimming, but the water was too cold for me, so I sat on the bank in the softest, greenest grass I’d ever seen and felt, which was dotted with sun-yellow dandelions. I have a visual memory of this beautiful afternoon… one of the mental “happy places” I go to, should I need to. Third, my great-great-great uncle Josef Kalus wrote a book of poetry published in 1925 called Pampelišky, cover pictured at right. 

The power of Facebook and a kind stranger yielded this translation from Czech of the 4-line melancholy poem on the flyleaf of the book…

Dandelion, you are an image of human glory,
you have once bloomed like gold in the grass,
your glory has not been spread into the world yet, 
and already feathers fall out of your gray head.


Last Saturday, I got together with two of my first cousins (one’s mother and the other’s father are two of my mother’s seven siblings), their spouses, and a few friends to bake kolaches and make a Texas Czech lunch, so that I could test recipes. We grilled several kinds of sausages, but experimented with salads and sides. Texas Czechs aren’t known for vegetable recipes necessarily and I wanted to see what we could come up with besides potato salad and cole slaw.

Zoy and Josh, two of my 25 awesome first cousins.
I had already known about wilted lettuce or wilted greens salad, but in searching for something really interesting, I ran across the variation below for Dandelion Green Salad in a cookbook I bought at the Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner.  The book is comprised of recipes submitted by employees, Shiner residents, and friends, and every recipe has Shiner beer in it, if course. The majority of recipe contributors have Czech or German last names, reflecting the area in Lavaca County.

I asked the Czech mother of a Texas Czech friend about whether Czechs actually made wilted greens salad and she said they did, but she thought it was a regional thing. Her mother made it (from Moravia near the Slovakian border), but her mother-in-law (from a different region in the CR) did not. She also commented that the dandelion stalks could be used as a celery substitute, if they weren’t too tough.
Dandelion Green Salad
Submitted by Ruth Terpinski
“A Taste of Texas: Cooking with Beer from the Little Brewery in Shiner, Texas”, 1986
 
4 cups young tender dandelion greens or other greens
4 hard cooked eggs, chopped
4 slices bacon, cut up
1/3 cup Shiner beer
1 Tablespoon honey
 
In a salad bowl, combine dandelion greens and chopped eggs; set aside. In skillet, fry bacon until crisp. Remove from heat. Stir Shiner beer and honey into bacon drippings. Pour over salad; toss to coat. Makes 4 servings.
Washed greens about to be ripped into smaller pieces.
Roughly chopped hard boiled eggs.
Mmmmmm, bacon. 
Pouring the bacon and grease, to which the honey and
Shiner Bock has been added, over the greens and eggs. 
I made no changes to the recipe except adding salt and pepper to taste. We were all skeptical about the bitterness of the greens, but the salad was delicious. The sweetness of the honey and richness of the bacon balanced the bitterness. Actually my cousin Josh remarked, "It tastes like mowing the lawn." (In a good way - think fresh and pungent.) And the dish rounded out a plate full of other flavors… sour sauerkraut, bitter dandelion greens, salty sausages, plus black eyed peas, a tomato and onion salad, and a mushroom salad. And beer. Lots of beer. And a red wine from Majek Winery near Moravia. Who says Texas Czech food is all sausage and sauerkraut? Well, at least that’s not ALL it is.




I found organic dandelion greens at Central Market. One $1.99 bunch yielded enough greens for the recipe, which will serve 4 to 6 people depending on what else you’re serving.  If you can’t find dandelions in your local grocery store or farmer’s market, forage for them, which I’m anxious to try myself. My friend Addie Broyles, wrote an article on cookbook author Georgia Pellegrini and foraging, which includes a more upscale dandelion greens salad recipe.

If you're a Texas Czech and you or a relative make anything with dandelion greens, I'd love to hear from you. 

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