Spinach rice is very easy to prepare, and more impotantly, very healthy. It makes a saucy alternative to pilafi rice. You can serve it with a cheese selection, boiled eggs, grilled or fried fish, or roast meat. We like to smear it with strained yoghurt. It makes a filling lunch meal, but it's not party food; it forms part of the staple diet of Cretans (and Greeks alike). You can also freeze it BEFORE the rice is added, for later cooking. I do this regularly, so I always make double the recipe. In fact, I'm defrosting a batch I made a little while ago. Some people substitute cabbage for spinach (appropriately called lahanorizo). I would make it like this if it wasn't for my husband, who doesn't like the smell of cooking cabbage permeating the house.
1 1/2 cups of rice
half a cup of olive oil
1 onion, chopped small
a few cloves of garlic, minced
half a kilo of spinach
a bunch of parsley and/or fresh mint
half a kilo of fresh pulped tomato
1 teaspoon of tomato paste
salt, pepper and oregano
2 cups of water
Pour the oil in a pan, and sauté the onion and garlic till transparent. Add the well-washed shredded spinach, and saute till it reduces in bulk. Add the chopped parsley and mint, and mix it in with the spinach. Now add the tomato and tomato paste, along with some salt, pepper and oregano. Mix it all in and simmer for about 15 minutes. The spinach won't need much longer. You can also use frozen spinach to make this dish (not if you want to freeze it though!); it tastes just as good. If you're making the fresh spinach version, this is the point where you freeze it. Let the pot cool down, and pour it into small tubs, as large as the amount you want to cook when you defrost it. I find that a 500g tub is enough for a family of four when the spanakorizo is served with something else.
Now add the rice. If you are using frozen mixture, defrost it in a saucepan and make sure it is completely liquid before you pour in the rice. Add a cup of water for every cup of rice. I sometimes add a little less liquid so that the rice doesn't come out too soggy, in case the sauce was too liquidy, and top up the pan with more water if it needs it. Let the rice cook (white rice needs about a quarter of an hour), adding more water if the liquid seems to run out, or the rice is too gritty. Stir it every now and then to make sure the rice isn't sticking to the bottom of the pan (a sure sign that more water is needed).
When the rice is ready, turn off the heat, let the pot stand for a few minutes to settle the rice grains, and then serve it. If you don't eat it all on the same day, it heats up very well in the microwave.
The lovely Georgia made a Bulgarian version of this dish with vlita (amaranth greens) and a mixture of fresh herbs from the garden. She used lemon juice instead of tomato sauce, a more refreshing alternative in the summer.
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