Have you ever read the book by Michael Pollan called “Food Rules?” I love the simplicity of it. The premise is we should eat and view food the way our great grandparents did. I know my great grandparents would freak out if they saw all the unidentifiable processed rubbish in a standard supermarket. They would gravitate toward the produce and meat and cheese aisle no doubt. Well in today’s recipe, I am going to talk about a centuries old Palestinian and Lebanese recipe called Hindbeh, or braised Dandelion Greens, that my grandparents made on a regular basis (by the way my grandmothers are still around, one is 99 years old this year, and the other is 89 years old).
Our ancestors not only ate whole unprocessed foods, they intuitively knew how to combine and prepare foods for maximum nutrient absorption. In this case, the bitter greens, a rich source of iron, are paired with lemon juice and olive oil. The vitamin C in the lemons assists with iron absorption while taking out the bitterness of the greens. The fat from the olive oil helps the body absorb vitamins A, C, and K, and it just so happens that most greens are rich in these exact vitamins. So not only does this ingredient combination make bitter greens more palatable, but it also makes the nutrients more bioavailable. Another technique in cooking these greens is to parboil them first. Most people think boiling vegetables leaches out the nutrition, but actually the reality is the opposite. Most dark leafy greens contain oxalates, or organic compounds that prevent the body from absorbing the nutrients. Oxalates bind to minerals and block their absorption. So when you eat a plate of greens, the oxalates will eliminate the minerals from your body so you won’t get the benefits. This explains why many vegans complain of becoming anemic, despite eating tons of iron rich greens. Boiling the greens for just 5 to 10 minutes will remove a good amount of oxalates, preventing the flushing out of all of the vitamins and minerals. I know I am getting a bit geeky here, but I find the whole concept of food prep for better nutrition fascinating. Here is a chart below which shows how other food combinations are beneficial.
So let’s go back to my ancestors, like my great Aunt Bahieh, who was born in 1914 and lived to be 95 years old. She would follow this exact method to make her dandelion greens, the way Palestinians have been preparing dandelion greens for centuries. Dandelion greens make a great substitute for spinach, kale or Swiss chard when you want to mix your greens up a bit, as they have an earthy, nutty and pleasingly bitter taste, similar to endive or radicchio.You can eat these greens plain as a side dish, or tuck them into a sandwich with middle eastern spreads like Labneh cheese or hummus. You can also mix these greens with quinoa and feta cheese for a main course. In the photo above, I fried up additional onions and added them on top, because why not? If you haven’t seen my latest video on this recipe, you can check it out here:
- 1 pound greens, trimmed, washed and chopped- You can substitute other greens too like collard or mustard greens, as well as kale, spinach or Swiss chard.
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 2- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tsp sumac
- 3 tbsp. of fruity extra virgin olive oil
- Juice of one large lemon
Remove any yellow leaves from dandelion. Wash well then finely chop. Bring water to a boil in a pot, and then add the dandelion greens and boil over medium heat for about 10 minutes.
Drain and rinse in cold water, then squeeze until dry. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, then add the onions. Sauté for about 4 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic and sauté 1 more minute. Add the greens and sauté for about 2 minutes.. Add the lemon juice, sumac, and salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle with more olive oil if desired, and serve warm or cold.