Whoever the first person was to combine the classic ingredients found in spanakopita (Greek spinach and feta pastry), they need to be honored with a national holiday. It’s the least we can do for all the joy they’ve bestowed upon the world.
Perhaps that may be a bit extreme, and it’s not like I’ve never expressed those kinds of sentiments before (hello, basil pesto, come here my love!), but there is something about the way spinach, onion, dill, and feta come together in such perfect harmony. It’s, well… perfect.
It should come as no surprise then, that there are a variety of Greek dishes that utilize this combination of ingredients. Sadly, I don’t have them all posted, yet. Don’t despair though, I do have some others for you to try out! Clearly, the fact that I’m bringing all this up here should be a clue that this very recipe that you are looking at will also rely on it, too. And what do you know, it does!!
Spanakorizo (spah-nah-KOH-ree-zoh) literally translates to spinach rice. It’s a frequent guest at the dinner table during times of Lenten fasting when meat, dairy and eggs are pushed aside. When fasting is not the issue, a sprinkling of feta cheese becomes a nice topping, but it is perfectly fine without it. It functions as both side and main dish, given the hefty blend of vegetables held together in a foundation of rice. It’s both light and filling at the same time, and unwanted leftovers will likely not be an issue!
Some quick notes before you begin:
Unlike most rice preparations that tell you not to stir the rice as it cooks, you will need to do so with this to prevent scorching on the bottom and to ensure the rice is cooked uniformly. Don’t worry about the rice getting “gummy” since the other ingredients will prevent this from being an issue.
Since spinach is really bulky when fresh, you may need to add it a little at a time to the pan. Once the first addition wilts down, you can add the next.
Feel free to substitute a broth of choice for the water. Just be mindful of the salt content before adding any other salt for seasoning.
I’m one of those people that has never learned the difference between the various kinds of white rice. Use whatever suits your fancy, except for the quick cooking “converted rice” types. I know at least that much!
Spanakorizo (Greek Spinach & Rice) Recipe
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 to 3/4 lb. yellow onion, cut in quarters and thinly sliced
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup, packed, finely chopped dill
- 1 lb. spinach, washed to remove dirt, chopped if large, stems okay
- 2 cups water (or broth)
- 1 cup white rice (any kind, just not quick cooking)
- 2 to 3 Tbsp. lemon juice
- salt & pepper to taste
- crumbled feta or mizithra for serving (optional)
Put the olive oil and onions in a pan deep enough to hold all the ingredients and that has a lid. Sauté the onions on medium heat until they just begin to brown and are translucent. Be sure to move the onions around in the pan every so often to avoid scorching.
Add spinach to the pan. If needed, add in a portion at a time and allow the spinach to wilt before adding more. Be sure to gently move the spinach around in the pan to keep it from burning. Once all the spinach has been added and wilted, add in the dill and mix in.
Add the water to the pan, cover, and bring to a boil. Add the rice, stir all together, reduce heat to low and cover the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the rice is tender. If needed, add additional water, but only a couple of tablespoons at a time. If the rice is nearing done but there is still a lot of water, allow it to cook with the lid off so the water evaporates.
Once the rice is nearly done, add the desired amount of lemon juice and stir in, cover, and allow to sit off the heat for five minutes. You can always add more lemon juice and olive oil to taste, along with salt and pepper. If you plan to top with feta or grated mizithra, be sparing with the salt since the cheese adds quite a bit. Enjoy! Kali Orexi (good appetite)!