Every year I’m surprised by how I can actually feel the seasons change by the quality of the air, the angle of the sun, or a slight shift in the temperature of the mornings. I walked out into our backyard the other day to find hundreds of brown redwood leaves littering the ground, tiny acorns adorning the tips. I asked Phoebe if she could see the wind, and she answered with a shushhh noise, waving her arms like the branches of our neighbor’s tree. The next morning we woke to the light pattering of rain. When I asked Phoebe if she could see the rain falling from the sky, she nodded happily and said, matter of factly, “ky” (sky).
We took my parents’ dog out for a short, rainy walk in the cul de sac behind our house, which took a very long time considering how short the distance was. We stopped for a while to watch a snail ooze towards a fence post, its antennae disappearing and reappearing like a magic trick. Phoebe pointed to it, gesturing for Pippin to take a look at this incredible sight (he trotted right past). Pippin took a drink of water out of the gutters; Phoebe stuck her hand in the water and, before I could stop her, licked her palm (I guess her immune system got a good boost). I picked a stick off the ground for her to play with, and she proceeded to use it to stir the tiny stream along the side of the road, pausing to sit on the curb and stomp her feet in the water. Pippin looked pleadingly at me as if to say, “can we please just go home now?” We finally made it back, and Pip and I took shelter inside, but Phoebe decided it was a good time to dig in the mud.
The shift in seasons feels a bit more special to me now that I have a little person to show them to. Of course, part of that shift shows up in the food I make, like this hearty, quintessentially Fall salad.
Back story: when I was about six months pregnant with Phoebe, we were supposed to go to Hawaii for one of my oldest friend’s wedding; we had the tickets and everything. Covid erased all those plans, as it did for so many people, so instead we spent a weekend in Point Reyes. We ate two exceptional dishes on that trip: one was a ginger scone we got from the Point Reyes Bakery (which also inspired a recipe of my own), and the other was a salad made with baby kale, crunchy pear, chopped toasted walnuts, and crumbled blue cheese. I recreated a version of that fantastic salad soon after our jaunt up the coast; it’s crunchy, hearty, and full of things that make you think Fall.
If you haven’t tried dandelion greens, give them a shot! They’re bitter, but plenty of fruit, nuts, and cheese mitigates most of that. Try to find a bunch with the smallest leaves possible, as those will be most tender. This salad is also fantastic with baby dino kale or even baby arugula.
Dandelion Greens with Pear & Blue Cheese
1/2 cup raw pecans
1 large bunch dandelion greens (you can sub baby kale or arugula if you need to)
2 small or 1 large ripe pear (I like Bosc or Warren here)
2.5 oz blue cheese (Point Reyes brand, fittingly, is my favorite)
1 small shallot, minced
1/2 tsp honey
2 tsp sherry vinegar
juice from half a small lemon
Preheat your oven to 350°F.
Arrange 1/2 cup raw pecans in a single layer in a baking dish or baking sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes, shaking halfway through, until the nuts smell toasty and are golden brown on the inside when you crack one open. Set aside to cool.
Slice the large parts of the stems off your dandelion greens. If it’s a bunch of small leaves, leave as is, but if the leaves are large slice or tear them into bite-sized chunks. Wash and dry thoroughly (use a salad spinner if you can). Place your cleaned greens in a large bowl or on a large plate.
Cut your pear (or pears) in half and remove the core. Slice thinly, and scatter among the greens.
Chop the cooled pecans and sprinkle on top of the greens and pears. Crumble about 2.5 oz of blue cheese across the salad.
To make the dressing, combine the minced shallot, 1/2 tsp honey, 2 tsp sherry vinegar, and juice of 1/2 a lemon into a small jar. Look at how much liquid is in your jar, and top with roughly double the amount of olive oil (you can measure it out, if you’d rather be precise). Shake until homogenous.
Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to distribute evenly. Serve immediately, or as soon as possible—dandelion greens get soggy rather quickly. Enjoy!