Saturday, December 15, 2012

SPANAKORIZO (Braised Spinach and Rice, made in the Greek Style)


To Greeks, braised spinach and rice is a very popular recipe that can be served as a main meal or on the side of a meat course.  For me, one of its best uses is to serve it as a first course.  However, when I cook it it for an everyday occasion, I like to eat a nice bowl of it as my main meal with no other accompaniment.  No bread, no salad, just myself and my spanakorizo.  In the southern regions of Greece, there is usually tomato or tomato paste that is added during cooking.  Not so in Northern Greece, were I come from.  Up North it's out with the tomatoes, in with the lemon juice.  Just as an aside, I think lemon flavor makes a recipe really Greek, because we Greeks (no matter which region we call our ancestral home), try to introduce lemons in just about anything that can be eaten:  Is it a dessert?  add some lemon juice.  Is it a salad?  add some lemon juice.  Is it a leg of lamb?  Don't forget the lemon juice, and while you are at it, throw in some lemon zest just for good measure.  I am not finished.  Having breakfast?  Add some lemon juice to your tea.  And of course, never, ever, cook a chicken with out adding lemon. Chicken minus lemon?  A Greek cardinal sin.  (Speaking of cardinal sins, let me digress some more.  I went to Macy's yesterday to return a gift with my gift receipt.  "Put the amount on your Macy's card?" asked the sales person.  "I don't have a Macy's card," I replied.  She looked dumbfounded.  She looked as though I had just slapped her grandmother and knocked the poor lady off a rocking chair.   "No Macy's card?"  she asked  me. She was lost. Could not figure out how to handle the transaction.  And here is where this story becomes pertinent to this post.  "Am I committing a cardinal sin by not having a Macy's card?" I asked.  "Add the amount to a gift card," I said.  So finally, a team of three employees figured out how to issue me a gift card.  Which I promptly spent on what I really wanted. OK, end of digression). 
"Woodland Santa"  What I spent my gift card on.   Look at that cute raccoon.  And the bear.  And the owl.  And the squirrels.  Something new to add to my Christmas decorations, which I treasure!
I remember eating spanakorizo at a cozy Greek restaurant in Toronto.  The chef had just finished preparing it, so it was just the thing to order for lunch.  It was really tart from the lemon juice that flavored it, and oh, so good!  Come to think of it, I ate another interesting Greek dish during that trip to Toronto.  It was cauliflower prepared with tomato sauce and rosemary.  Very unusual, very good, but that's a recipe for another occasion.  Today we are tackling spanakorizo.  Just a note: It's not traditional to add carrot, but someone told me go ahead, a carrot will add sweetness and color.  I don't think it made a significant difference taste-wise, but it did provide a nice bright contrast.  Adding the carrot is totally optional.  Anyway, even though it's winter, and close to Christmas too, I felt like having spanakorizo, which is more of a summertime dish.  Oh, how I miss the summertime... and my garden... and the greenery of spring... Perhaps that's why I decided to make spanakorizo this winter's day.  It's so green!  If you want a nice recipe for spanakorizo, try this one, but just to let you know, it makes lots of it.  If you are not feeding a crowd, the recipe in half.  The spankorizo will keep in the refrigerator for about 2 days.

Ingredients:

5 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 clove garlic left whole
6 scallions, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
¾ to 1 cup rice 
3 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2 pounds fresh spinach washed and chopped (or if you’re in a hurry use the frozen spinach that comes  pre-chopped and pre-washed)
Juice of 1 ½ lemons
4 ½ cups of chicken broth (or use water or a combination of the two)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 carrot, diced (totally optional)
a chunk of feta cheese, not too large, to yield about two tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
lemon slices for garnish
Your best olive oil to drizzle on top

Directions:

Heat the oil in the saucepan.
Add the onion, and garlic.  Sauté until softened.

Add the rice and sauté until the rice is well coated with the olive oil.
Add the water or chicken broth and let it come to a boil.

Add the spinach and stir until wilted.

Reduce the heat and add the scallions, carrot, parsley, dill, lemon juice, and salt and pepper.  

Mix, cover and simmer about 35 to 40 minutes, until almost all of the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is cooked.  
The all important anointing with  feta cheese.

Ten minutes before the end of cooking add the cheese and stir.  Just keep an eye out: more liquid may need to be added during cooking.  
Pretty much done cooking...  It should not be dry when it's done.  It should have a juicy consistency.  Not soupy, not dry.  You know what I mean, don't you?

Serve garnished with lemon slices, and for an extra depth of flavor drizzle some good extra virgin olive oil on top.  That's an important step.  Don't forget it.  You don't need a lot, and you will be surprised at how a little olive oil will add so much flavor.

6 comments:

  1. Nice looking meal. I wish I had a bowl. We just got home from shopping and we are all starving. We are waiting for pizza, but this would be fine as a first course as you say. LOL!

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    1. Hello, Karen!
      What kind of pizza did you order?

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  2. Ana, your recipe looks delicious alone or even better yet with some of your mom's delicious chicken, mmmm. Woodland Santa looks quite handsome, too.

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  3. I'm from Athens we never prepare it with tomato evoo and lots of fresh lemons and no carrots for sure....can you say purist lol?

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    1. Hilarious!!! You are hilarious. I was trying to get away from the purist version for once. Believe it or not, the suggestion to add carrots came from a friend who lives in Thessaloniki. No jokes about the second protevousa, Athenian!
      I like it very much just plain with lemon. An old standby!

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