Spanakorizo … A Little Bit of Greece here in the Delta

I love Greek food. It is everything that I love in a cuisine. It can be fancy or rustic, it is one of the healthiest diets in the world, does not require a lot of equipment or sophisticated techniques to prepare and relies heavily on vegetables (the fresher the better). Greek cuisine, and Mediterranean cuisine in general, is well suited to the localvore diet.

Spanakorizo is a simple dish that can be quite hearty, with the addition of some nice feta or other cheese. Aside from the lemons, you can find the ingredients for this dish at nearly every farmers’ market or CSA in the country. I especially enjoy a mixture of red and yellow heirloom tomatoes and I always end up adding more dill. The fragrance and taste of fresh dill combined with the spinach, onions and tomatoes is heavenly. Spinach is the star in this dish so make it in the spring when fresh spinach is abundant.

If you have cooked with fresh spinach before, you know that it takes a lot to make a meal. This recipe calls for 2 pounds (1 kg) and will serve 4 to 6 people. You can use brown or white long-grain rice, but avoid using a sticky rice (like jasmine) in this dish.

The last time I made this, I was able to get everything I needed (except for the garlic, lemon, and broth) from the Memphis Farmers’ Market downtown. I used a local brown rice and it was perfect.

2 pounds fresh spinach (baby spinach works well, but if you use larger leaves you might want to cut off the stems)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 onion diced (1 to 1 1/2 cups of chopped green onions works nicely also)
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup brown or white long grain rice
1 cup chicken broth, vegetable broth, or water
1 bunch of fresh dill, chopped
juice from one lemon
salt and pepper
2-3 fresh medium heirloom tomatoes, chopped (you can peel the tomatoes if you like or substitute a 14 ounce can of diced tomatoes)

Heat a large stock pan over medium heat and add the olive oil (I use extra virgin). Heat the oil a bit then add the onion and cook it softens. Add the spinach and stir it occasionally until it begins to wilt. In a few minutes, the spinach will begin to break down and release its water. Add the garlic, the rice, broth or water, dill and the lemon juice. Stir and bring to a gentle boil then cover and reduce the heat. Cook covered until the rice is done (30-35 minutes for brown rice, 20-25 minutes for white). When the rice is done, uncover the pot and stir. Stir in the tomatoes and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm with feta and olives if you like.

You can find variations of this recipe in many different places, but I based it from a traditional recipe from “Vefa’s Kitchen” by Vefa Alexiandou.

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