In Crete, sweet and tart greens–tender pea shoots, sow thistle, wild spinach, sorrel, wild leeks—and if available tender fava pods, sweet peas, or a couple of artichokes bottoms and their peeled stems are all braised together with lots of wild fennel fronds. Freshly squeezed lemon juice gives zest to the stew. The potatoes taste wonderful as they soak up the aromatic juices.
Makes 4 servings
1/2 cup olive oil
2 leeks, trimmed, thinly sliced, washed well and drained
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
4–5 scallions (white and most of the green parts), thickly sliced
1 fennel bulb, trimmed (fronds and tender stalks reserved) and coarsely chopped
3–4 medium potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, preferably freshly ground or crushed in a mortar
2 pounds spinach, sorrel, Swiss chard or other non-bitter greens
1 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoons salt or more, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
4–5 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup chopped fennel fronds plus tender stalks, or fresh dill
Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling (optional)
In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat and sauté the leeks for 5 to 8 minutes, or until soft. Add the onions, scallions, fennel bulb, potatoes and fennel seeds and stir to coat with the oil, then add the greens.
Sauté for 2 minutes, then add the water, salt and pepper to taste. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the greens and potatoes are tender and most of the juices have evaporated. If the sauce is still too watery, cook for 2 to 3 minutes over high heat to reduce it. Add 4 tablespoons lemon juice and 1/2 cup of the fennel fronds or dill, taste and adjust the seasonings. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes more, then sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup fennel fronds and drizzle with the oil, if using, and toss.
Serve warm or at room temperature.