This pistou reminds me of leisurely meals in Sicily, where I first encountered flavors like these. French pistou is similar to Italian pesto, and this one in particular has a lot of complexity from the crunchy pistachios and soft, sweet raisins, plus bitterness from the dandelion greens.
Creamy burrata is a nice foil to the sharpness of the greens, but if you can’t find a reliable source, a ripe French triple crème cheese will work instead. There are excellent burratas out there and some not-so-great ones, too, so it’s worth tasting a few to find one that’s very fresh. It should feel quite soft and taste incredibly rich and creamy. Carefully cut each cheese in half to serve four people.
You can skip the cheese entirely and serve this pistou with an oily fish like mackerel or swordfish, or with oil-packed sardines from a tin. It’s also an easy sauce to stir into warm pasta or to use as a garnish on soup. At its simplest, this is a fabulous topping for warm, crusty bread.
- Yield: 4 Servings
- 1 bunch dandelion greens
- 6 to 7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons finely minced shallot
- 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- ½ teaspoon fennel pollen
- ¼ teaspoon red chile flakes
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup golden raisins, soaked in just-boiled water for 20
- minutes and drained
- 1 tablespoon sweet Marsala
- 2 fresh burrata cheeses, each 3 to 4 inches in diameter,
- Flaky finishing salt, for serving
- 1 tablespoon 30-year aged balsamic vinegar, optional
- Rustic bread slices, toasted, for serving
- Preheat the oven to 325°F. Spread the pistachios on a small baking sheet and bake until lightly toasted, 3 to 4 minutes. (Since pistachios have brown skins and a crisp texture, it can be hard to tell when they’re toasted. Allow them to cool and taste one. You’re looking for a very slightly toasted flavor and a still-green interior.) When the nuts are cool enough to handle, roughly chop and set aside.
- Blanch and shock the dandelion greens, leaving the greens in the boiling water for 30 to 45 seconds, until the stems are just tender and the leaves are bright green. When the greens have completely cooled in the ice water, pull them out of the water and squeeze dry with your hands. Chop finely and set aside.
- Heat a 6- to 8-inch sauté pan over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of the oil. When the oil is hot, add the shallot, lowering the heat slightly to prevent any color from forming. When the shallot is translucent, after 2 to 3 minutes, add the garlic, fennel pollen, chile flakes, salt, and pepper and stir to mix. Add the raisins and cook until they begin to expand, about 1 minute. Add the Marsala and cook off the liquid, about 1 minute. Add the dandelion greens and stir very briefly just to combine all the flavors, about 30 seconds. Transfer the mixture to a metal mixing bowl.
- Add the chopped pistachios and 4 tablespoons of the remaining oil to the greens mixture and stir to combine. The mixture should have some pools of oil; add another splash of oil if necessary. The pistou can be stored, covered with thin layer of oil, in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Before serving, leave it at room temperature for about 1 hour, until the olive oil is completely fluid.
- To serve, top each piece of burrata with 3 or 4 tablespoons of pistou and spoon some of the excess olive oil around the edge of the burrata. Sprinkle lightly with flaky salt, drizzle with balsamic vinegar, and serve with toasted bread. Beet-Cured Salmon