Spanakorizo is a classic, comforting Greek rice and spinach dish. It's great as a side dish to many mains, but also works as a vegetarian main. It's easy to make, packed with goodness and tasty, too.
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I know you might think, ah yes, salads. Sure, salads are part of that, but you'll also find a number of wonderful cooked vegetable dishes. Some can be mains or sides, too, like fasolakia (Greek green beans), briam (like ratatouille) and this tasty dish.
This rice dish is a little like the Greek version of risotto, but with a few differences. For one, it doesn't include cheese (only maybe on top) and also, it's loaded up with spinach. Yes, many risottos have additions but not quite in the same quantity. In many versions of this dish, it will feel roughly equal amounts spinach to rice.
What is in the dish apart from spinach and rice?
In truth, not a lot, just some onions, herbs, olive oil and water or stock to cook the rice. Being a traditional dish, you will always find slight variations in the ingredients but they are not, in general, that significant.
The only one that is bigger is whether it includes tomato or not. Using tomato changes the color of the dish and also the flavor a little. In some ways it's almost two different dishes, but neither is really right or wrong just more of a preference.
If you don't use tomato then you typically add some lemon juice at the end of cooking. This is because without the tomato, you need something to cut through the iron-y flavor of the spinach which lemon does well. It also adds a nice little freshness.
Other than that, this is a very simple dish and the only real variations are which alliums and which herbs. Most use at least two different alliums, typically scallion/spring onion, shallot or onion and maybe leek. For the herbs, dill is the most common and sometimes also some mint and/or parsley.
I've drawn on a few recipes in making this, including this Olive Tomato recipe. I've kept things relatively simple, without the tomato, but with plenty of spinach and a tasty mix of spring onion, red onion and dill.
What type of rice should you use?
I found some debate on what kind of rice to use for this - some say medium grain, others long grain. I think you can use either but you don't really want anything too starchy like arborio. This isn't risotto, after all, and you are not looking for a creamy-like texture.
I like making it with basmati rice, but you could also use Jasmine, for example. Brown rice is not as traditional but can work here. The end texture will, of course, be that bit different.
Should you use fresh or frozen spinach?
You can use both fresh spinach leaves or frozen spinach for this dish, but both have their pluses and minuses.
With fresh, it will seem like a huge amount to start with, and you may wonder if it will fit. You may find you need to add it gradually to let some wilt before adding more.
With frozen, you don't have the volume problem as it's in effect already wilted, but you do need to plan ahead that bit more and defrost the spinach before cooking. Then, squeeze it well as it will probably have excess liquid.
Personally, I much prefer the texture and of fresh spinach (not to mention less pre-planning) and so the recipe is written for that. If you substitute, be sure to look for the net weight and go for frozen chopped spinach so the pieces are not too big.
Tips for making this dish
As I say, this is an easy dish to make but it's worth keeping a couple things in mind. First, it will seem like a huge amount of fresh spinach but don't worry. Spinach wilts down a LOT and the rice expands so it does all balance out.
Make sure you remove any tough stems and roughly chop the spinach before you start cooking. This gives a more even end texture and saves having pieces that are too big as you eat.
Don't add the dill and lemon until right before the end. If you add them earlier, you lose their bright flavor which you want to come through. It's up to you whether you top with feta - it's vegan without it, but does add a nice contrast in flavor so can be good to try if it suits.
Spanakorizo is a simple rice dish, loaded up with spinach, that's wonderfully comforting and healthy, too. It's easy to make and perfect both as it is or to accompany many mains. So give it a try and enjoy.
Try these other tasty rice dishes:
- Japanese mushroom rice (kinoko gohan - easy, earthy and delicious)
- Persian sweet rice (shirin polow - with a lovely light flavor of sweetened orange zest and carrots)
- Pumpkin risotto (pure fall-flavored comfort food)
If you are looking for more traditional Greek recipes why not try:
- Youvetsi (orzo and lamb or beef stew - a big family favorite comfort food)
- Keftedes (classic Greek meatballs, with gentle aromatic flavors)
- Kolokithokeftedes (Greek zucchini fritters, which make a tasty snack)
- Plus get more Greek recipes in the archives.
Spanakorizo (Greek spinach rice)
- 8 oz spinach
- 1 spring onion (scallion)
- ¼ red onion (or ½ if small)
- 2 tablespoon virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup rice, eg Basmati (long or medium grain, not too starchy)
- ½ cup water (or vegetable stock, if you prefer)
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
- ½ lemon juice (ie from ½ lemon, approx)
- ½ tablespoon feta cheese to serve, approx (optional)
- Remove any tough stems from the spinach and roughly chop the leaves. Slice the spring onion into thin slices and finely chop the red onion.
- Warm a little over half the oil in a medium pan over a medium heat and add the spring onion and red onion. Cook the onions for a couple minutes to soften them without browning (add a little more oil or reduce heat, if needed).
- Add the spinach and wilt it down in the heat of the pan. Stir regularly and lift up the cooked spinach from the bottom to the top to help it wilt a little faster.
- Once the spinach has all wilted down, add the rice and water or stock. Stir to combine and scrape down any spinach that has become stuck to the sides of the pan.
- Once it comes to a simmer, cover and reduce the heat. Cook for around 20 - 25 minutes until the rice has cooked and absorbed the liquid.
- Add the dill, the remaining oil and the lemon juice and stir to mix through. Serve either as it is or topped with a little crumbled feta on top.
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