It is time for super foods in this time of the year! Days are getting colder and wetter despite the spectacular colors of Indian summers, and hearty soups move to the top of your food list; so you think! How about some leafy greens like dandelion and wild chicory for a change? Adding them to your soups, having them as a salad, or preparing them like hindbeh bi zeit in this recipe will enrich your taste buds and your healthy diet! These leafy greens are namely packed with nutrients. High in fiber and low in calories, they stimulate your appetite and support your digestive health. They are full of essential minerals such as potassium, folic acids and magnesium, and they are a good source of calcium, iron and vitamins such as A, C and K. In addition to all of that they are loaded with antioxidants making them super food by excellence!
The confusion starts when you can’t find both on the market, but you have found the substitute and want to write a good recipe. The name you use depends on the country you live in. Is the wild chicory you are talking about in your recipe actually endive? Is there a difference between chicory, chicorée or endive? What is the right terminology for the “Endivien” I buy in Germany in other European countries and in the States?
Dandelion (yellow-flowered) and wild chicory (blue flowered) are closely related edible weed plants with bitter tasting leaves. If you are not keen on harvesting them yourself in your own garden or on the fields, you can find them in grocery stores or in farms depending where you live. As the young leaves taste less bitter, you will rather add them to your salad in spring. In Lebanon we call dandelion that grows abundantly in early spring hindbeh.
I learned from my quick research on the Internet that there are three types of cultivated endive or chicory (confusion again!!!!), of which there are many varieties. The most common varieties are:
- Curly endive, has curly light green leaves, tastes very bitter, also known as frisée. In the States it is known as chicory, confusing it with the real wild chicory. Get it?
- Belgian endive, has pale yellow leaves and tastes moderately bitter. Red endive (radicchio) is one specific variety. In France and Lebanon it is called endive, in Germany chicorée, which added to my own confusion in my new German existence!
- Broad-leafed endive, also referred to as escarole, belongs to the same family as curly endive but is less bitter. This is called “Endivien” in Germany, and this is the plant my mother spotted at the supermarket in 1988 blessing it as the substitute for Dandelion.
Now mystery solved or secret revealed, you know what to look for when you decide to try this recipe. You won’t regret it! This humble dish has also become my German students’ favourite who only know escarole as a salad. Another way to prepare it is to toss the drained blanched leaves in a lemony garlicky salad dressing. You will be calling it Assourah, a word most probably derived from the verb in Arabic that means squeeze. Both dishes are usually part of a meze, and are a delicious accompaniment to grilled and fried fish. I love to serve both with Feta, black olives and Arabic bread without forgetting the generous squeeze of lemon!
Hindbeh bi zeit – Cooked dandelion with caramelised onions
- 1 kg dandelion, wild chicory or broad-leafed endive cut off the roots
- 4 medium onions 400 g, peeled, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced into half-moon shapes
- 125 ml extra virgin olive oil
- ¾ teaspoon salt or to taste
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper or to taste
- Lemon juice to serve
- Thoroughly wash the broad-leafed endive with cold water and drain in a colander. Bring water to the boil in a large pot, add some salt and half of the greens. Bring back to a boil. Cook for about 5 minutes or until leaves are tender. Remove from water onto a colander and leave to cool for at least one hour. Cook the second half. Squeeze out excess water from the greens and chop coarsely.
- In the meantime, heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat and sauté the onions for about 10-15 minutes until they become brown and caramelised, stirring often. Remove half the amount with a slotted spoon onto a plate, leaving the rest in the pan.
- Reduce heat to medium-low and add the chopped endive to the remaining onions in the pan. Season with the salt and pepper and mix well. Continue cooking for about 10 minutes, stirring all the time. Adjust taste if required.
- Transfer Hindbeh onto the serving plate and garnish the top with the rest of the onions. Serve warm or cold with a drizzle of lemon juice.