Recipe of the Week: Sabanekh Bel Ruz
Many months ago, I made my mama’s recipe for a dish called Mulukhiyah. Mulukhiyah is a leaf that has a really distinct flavor to it. It’s bitter, but not the familiar bitter of something like a mustard green. Additionally, cooked mulukhiyah leaves have the same kind of slimy consistency that cooked okra does, only about 100 times slimier. I have never been a fan of the leaves themselves, but have always enjoyed the broth that accompanies the dish. It’s a nice balance of pungent savory with the lamb (or beef, depending on which you prefer to cook with) stock to bursts of tart with the addition of lots of lemon. It’s the perfect soup to pour over a bowl of rice – assuming you’re able to render the soup down to a manageable consistency that is mostly devoid of the glue-like thickness made possible by the mulukhiyah leaves. My mama’s version of this dish was always pretty spot on. I, on the other hand, was not able to escape the goo, and so I opt to love a less adventurous version of leafy goodness over rice.
Sabanekh Bel Ruz (Spinach with Rice) isn’t a dish I recall my mother ever making. She very well might have, but if it was green and limp and served over rice, it was all the same recipe to me. This is actually a dish my tata used to make for my dad and one he still enjoys. I find it to be a much more palate-pleasing option to serve. Spinach has such a comforting sweetness to it. I absolutely adore the way the leaves embrace the spices that get added to a spinach dish. It’s like the leaves know exactly how to absorb the right amounts of flavor in order to enhance their natural yumminess.
Sabanekh Bel Ruz is a very straightforward recipe. There’s nothing fancy about this meal, making it the perfect contender for comfort food. The added bonus is how much better the dish tastes the next day and the day after that. And coming from a family that made enough food to feed a small country, that added bonus is a gem. Rarely did a meal get made in my house that wasn’t intended to feed us for multiple days, so it was vital that the dish only get better with age.
Here’s my mama’s recipe for Sabanekh Bel Ruz with some additional pointers from my pops:
1 lb. cubed beef steak (or lamb)
3 10 oz. packages of frozen, chopped spinach
1 medium onion
3 tbsp. olive oil or semneh
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
5 cups of water
Saute the onion in the oil or clarified butter until brown. Add the meat and brown for several minutes before adding water and spices. Boil until the meat is tender and then add the spinach. Add additional spices to taste and simmer for 25-35 minutes. Add the lemon juice near the end and cook for a couple of minutes longer. You want the meat super tender and the spinach to almost melt in your mouth. Serve over rice.