DSC_3821hinbeh-finished-trapani copyI have recently moved to Sicily in search of sunshine and a place that reminds me of home (Lebanon & Syria) but where I do not have to worry about ISIS! I am being facetious of course but Italy seems a safer bet than the Middle East these days and the great thing about Sicily, apart from the fact that it is very beautiful with lovely people and lovely food, is that the produce is just amazing, and pretty much the same as what I was brought up on, seasonal and supremely flavourful. So, I am now ensconced in Trapani which I like to compare to Beirut but cleaner and better organised, until that is my house is built, and not far from where I live is the mercato dei contadini, ie. farmers market that happens every Saturday; and this last Saturday one of the farmers had the most amazing cicoria or hindbeh that took me straight back to my mother and Jamil, my wonderful driver in Beirut who sadly is no longer with us, who used to bring my mother the most amazing bunches of freshly picked hindbeh which she would then cook in olive oil. And even though my fractured toes are still not completely recovered, I bought some  to make myself some hindbeh following my mother’s recipe.

DSC_3768hindbeh-bunches-trapani copy

I was a little too ambitious and bought too much but how could I resist such amazingly fresh produce. So, I trimmed the bottoms and chopped the cicoria in 5 cm pieces. It looks like a lot but once boiled, it reduces quite a bit although not as much as spinach.

DSC_3776hindbeh-chopped-trapani copy

Here is the chopped hindbeh ready to be washed. It wasn’t particularly dirty and one bath was enough.

DSC_3786hindbeh-cooked-trapani copy

And here it is cooked. It is important to dunk the cooked and drained hindbeh in iced or cold water so that it stops cooking and keeps its deep green colour. My mother told me to keep the stalks because they are the best part but I think I could have trimmed a little more than I did, if only for a better presentation.

DSC_3795onions-sliced-trapani copy

While the hindbeh was cooking, I got working on the onions. Normally I would use yellow onions but these red onions looked so beautiful at the market that I decided to buy them. They looked beautiful whole and they look beautiful sliced.

DSC_3804hindbeh-cooked & squeezed 2-trapani copy

Here is the cooked hindbeh squeezed dry of most of the cooking liquid. After you do this you need to loosen the leaves so that they mix well with the fried onion and olive oil.

DSC_3811onions-frying-trapani copy

And here are the onions colouring slowly. It is important you fry them at a medium low heat so that they cook through and colour at the same time. The danger comes at the end, when they start to turn brown. You need to judge the colour right and remove them when they turn golden brown and before they become burned brown! Once the onions have coloured  and crisped up, remove three quarters into a strainer or onto several layers of kitchen paper. Then add the hindbeh to the pan and saute it with the remaining onions and olive oil. And there you have it, a perfect summer dish to have as part of a mezze spread, or simply to serve for a simple lunch like I did. I skipped the rose because I was working but it would be a perfect accompaniment otherwise. And you need to of course serve pita bread with it, which sadly I can’t find here. I guess I have to make my own. Anyhow, here is the recipe in case you find some cicoria at the farmers market!

Italian Dandelion in Olive Oil

Hindbeh bil-Zeyt

Serves 4

2 pounds 2 ounces/1 kg Italian dandelion (known as cicoria)

1/2 cup/125 ml extra virgin olive oil

4 medium onion (about 14 oz/400 g), cut in half and thinly sliced in wedges

sea salt

lemon wedges for garnish

Wash and drain the Italian dandelion. Trim the bottoms of the stalks and cut into pieces, about 2 1/2 inches/6 cm long. Fill a large pan with water and place over medium-high heat. Bring to the boil. Add salt to taste then add the dandelion – I like to add enough salt so that I don’t need to salt the dandelion after. Bring back to the boil and cook for 5 minutes. Drain the dandelion and dunk in iced water.

Put the olive oil and onion in a large frying pan and place over medium heat. Fry, stirring occasionally, until the onion turn a rich golden brown, without letting them burn. Remove three quarters of the onion with a slotted spoon and put to drain in a strainer or onto several layers of kitchen paper and leave the rest in the pan.

Squeeze the cooked dandelion dry. Loosen the leaves and add them to the fried onion in the pan. Sauté over medium heat for a couple of minutes, stirring regularly until the dandelion is well blended with the oil and onion slices. Transfer to a serving platter and let cool before serving at room temperature, garnished with the crispy onions and lemon wedges.

©Anissa Helou, recipe from Lebanese Cuisine

There is 25 comments on this post

  • Hi Anissa,
    It is very nice to find you and your blog. Today, I created your recipe of Yogurt with Fresh Figs, and Pine Nuts. It was sublime! I found it and other of your recipes in the July 2014 issue of Bon Appetite. I’m looking forward to trying the rest of your recipes and reading future posts of your blog.

    All the best,
    Mary Rollins

  • Dear Anissa,
    I have been following your blog for years and enjoy and use your recipes! I love Hindbe but can’t readily find it in Seattle.
    Congratulations on your move to Sicily and I can’t wait to take a class or two with you!
    I am from the Bekaa valley in Lebanon but have roots in Mashta el helou (like you!) and have lived in Seattle for 30 years.
    Thank you, Shukran, for everything that you share.

  • you are welcome laura or should i say cousin :)!

  • Hi Anissa,

    This looks yummy. Does it come a bit bitter like the wild Hindbe we have in Syria?

    Sorry to hear about your toe, please get well soon! Please write more we miss your posts!!


  • It does Hamdi, and I am on the mend. Thank you. Will start writing more soon 🙂

  • Hi Anissa,
    I am anxiously awaiting the harvest of wild dandelion greens here on the gulf coast in Texas. Sometimes they begin to grow in mid winter so I’ve been checking my favorite spots regularly.
    Around here the people who eat wild dandelions (not many any more) usually cook them with smoked bacon and serve them with vinegar. I suppose that’s not much different than serving with a lemon wedge.
    I was looking to explore different ways of cooking it, and I am looking forward to trying yours. Thank you for your wonderful site and ideas.


  • marhaba Anisa…ive been a fan of your cookbooks and blog for years, and have had much success following your recipes…recently i tried the kaak spice rings cookies from Sweet Middle East..but two questions… am wondering what should the final texture of interior be like,? ,,the dough never really rose..and i let it rest for the an hour and half…the yeast was proofed fine..should it have risen?.ty for any guidance.

  • ps i did have to also add about two tablespoons on milk to dough to help the shaping as the dough kept cracking when i rolled them into rings…was that not correct to do?

  • Marhaba mariam, thank you for being a fan! the texture should be crumbly although not as crusty as shortbread. And if I remember correctly, I don’t think the dough should rise too much. just relax and become more malleable but I will be making them for Easter and I will let you know. It’s been ages since I made them :).

  • i am sure you were right to do so. flours and semolinas change from brand to brand and some may need more hydration…

  • ok great! thats why I made them this week.. to test it out for for Easter. but wasnt sure if they came out right,,,I. havent had them in so many many years since i was a child…. when my aunt would lovingly bake huge batches we kept in tins for tea time…….could you .maybe post pics of the recipe and results here for Easter readers,,,ty again

  • Hi,Anissa. I finally finished my translation of Kitab al-Wuslah ila al-Habib and I’d like to send you a copy, but I don’t have your address in Trapani. I emailed you a couple of days ago but didn’t get a reply. Could you send your address to my new email

    I’d also like to send a copy to Nevin. Do you have an address for her? All I have is a PO box number.

  • sent you an email to your new address 🙂

  • Dear Anissa, so excited to have stumbled on your blog ,I own a couple of your cookbooks,and LOVE THEM I would love to subscribe to your blog ,but don’t know how,I couldn’t finf the info,can you please add my email to your subscription list,I would love to get tasy updates of your stuff.

    Many Thanks,

  • Strange Danae. I will check with my IT person to see how to fix the problem. Until then, I have added your email to my list and thank you for liking my books 🙂

  • I love your recipes.

  • Wow I haven’t had Hindbeh in years…my mom used to make this dish and sometimes we would eat it with tahini, so good 😊 thank you for the recipe!

  • Anissa, I have one of your cookbooks. I was just made aware that you have others. I will look them up on Amazon. I would like to receive your blog as well. By the way, my family is also from the Bekaa Valley in the town of Aiteneet.

    Most sincerely,

    Marilyn Nader

  • Thank you Marilyn. I haven’t been blogging for a while but planning to take it up again 🙂

  • Dear Anissa, I hope you are doing well. I recently found your name in a New Yorker article which lists the best cookbooks of the century. When I saw the title, I looked you up right away and discovered that you are quite an experienced chef and author. My husband is from North Africa and quite a good home cook. I, on the other hand, grew up in the U.S., in a typical junk food eating family. My best is reheating packaged food. I really want to learn how to become a better cook, especially for my family. But I’m so intimidated about starting; I almost get anxiety because I compare my few attempts, which have turned out horribly, to my husband’s natural sense of artistry and ability. Do you have any suggestions for one of your cookbooks, or any cookbook, which would be a great place to start? Something that teaches the basics really well, but definitely not typical U.S. food? Tonight my daughter said, “mom, I want real food for dinner, like papa’s sauce.” Something they can enjoy as they grow up which isn’t the typical American fare, but isn’t too hard or intensive or expensive for beginners? Thank you!

  • Well, it’s difficult to advise you not knowing your favourite cuisine. Long ago I wrote a book on Moroccan street food called Cafe Morrocco. I also wrote a book on Mediterranean street food. Eiother has nice fairly simple recipes and you can try cooking from one of them 🙂

  • Anissa, quite by accident I found out you recently moved to Sicily. I now live in Palermo since 3 years. If you ever are in Palermo please contact me, it would be great to catch-up, Nathalie

  • Just sent you an email…

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