It has been a long time ~ too long ~ since I visited Greece. My husband and I were there some fifteen years ago, a last footloose fling before our entree into parenthood. We celebrated our last vacation as DINKs (that is, dual income, no kids) by traipsing around Europe and the Mediterranean for 6 wonderful weeks.
Maybe it was all the sightseeing ~ there's just so much to see ~ or maybe it was the fact that I was actually pregnant with our firstborn at the time, but one of my most prominent memories of Greece is its food. Its magical, incredible, sunshine-and-seashore-on-a-plate food.
By hot, sun-blasted day, we went to Patmos; toured the Parthenon; soaked in the pure, unadulterated ancientness that radiates from every paving stone, every statue, every crumbling (and scaffold-buttressed) ruin.
And then, we ate. And ate. And ATE. From street food like gyros to simple, exquisite crumbly white cheese drizzled with bright green olive oil to fast-food souvlaki we ate out of waxed paper on the rooftop terrace of our hotel at dusk ~ I don't recall that we ate a single bad meal in all of Greece.
And, you know, the scenery was pretty nice too.
Greek-Style Spinach and Rice
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, more if necessary
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 pound frozen loose cut-leaf spinach (or use chopped fresh spinach, in season)
- 2 1/4 cups water or vegetable stock, divided
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- 1/2 cup uncooked jasmine rice
- 1/4 cup tomato sauce
- Kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper to taste
- Lemon wedges to garnish
- Place a large skillet with a lid over medium-high heat. Add olive oil to pan and bring to medium-high. Once the oil is hot, add the onions. Saute until tender, then add the garlic. Saute a minute or 2 longer, until onions are translucent and garlic is just tender. Add spinach to the pan (no need to thaw). Stir. Pour in 1/4 cup of water and cover. If spinach is frozen, continue to cook, stirring periodically for about 5 minutes, until it is thawed. If using fresh spinach, cook just till spinach is wilted.
- Add remaining water or stock, dill and parsley, and rice; stir and bring to boil. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 25 minutes, until rice has absorbed most of the liquid and is tender. If necessary, add more water or stock to moisten during this stage.
- Stir in tomato sauce and salt and pepper to taste. Let stand on low heat till heated through. Serve with lemon wedges to squeeze overtop.
Makes 4 generous main-dish or 8 side-dish servings.
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- The tomato sauce in this recipe imparts a subtle depth without giving it a tomatoey flavor. If you prefer a more robust tomato presence, you can increase the amount of sauce, add some canned or fresh diced tomato, or stir in a tablespoon or two of tomato paste. But try it without sometime ~ it's lovely with the lemon juice.
- If you're serving this as a meatless main dish, you'll probably want to add a bit of protein to the meal, either to the dish itself or as a side. If you're not vegan, you can sprinkle some feta cheese over the top. I serve this with a salad of chickpeas dressed with a little extra-virgin olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper.
- If you're not a vegetarian, you can use chicken stock in this, or add some sliced cooked kielbasa or turkey sausage.