The grand thing about cooking is you can eat your mistakes. -Julia Child

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Spinach and Brown Rice Pilaf with Feta

My kitchen is full of printouts of recipes I discover when I'm at work. I print them out and save them for when I'm ready. Some I get to within the week; some I've had for months. This recipe didn't even make it 24 hours.

Silky spinach meets hearty brown rice and tangy feta in this Greek-inspired dish. You'll have doubts when this first goes in the pot - it looks like a giant pot of watery spinach filled with rice that will never cook. But it will cook. And it'll be quite tasty when it is done, I promise. I served this as a one-dish meal with some chunks of lemon pepper baked tofu on top.

Modifications from the original: The original called for jasmine rice and fresh spinach. I used brown rice for the health benefits as well as because that is what I had in my pantry. I also used a mix of fresh and frozen spinach, in an effort to test to see if this recipe could be made using either one. In the end - I don't think it matters. This dish cooks for a good 40 minutes, so using fresh doesn't really seem to matter. Use whichever is available; obviously starting with frozen chopped spinach rather than fresh will save you the cleaning/chopping time.

Spinach and Brown Rice Pilaf with Feta
Inspired by Kim O'Donnel

1/4 cup olive oil
3 small onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup brown rice
1 pound spinach, chopped (frozen or fresh)
Salt and black pepper
1 cup chopped fresh dill
Dash of nutmeg
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 pound feta, crumbled

In a 4-quart saucepan or other large pot, heat olive oil over medium-low heat.
Add onions and garlic and cook until soft but not brown, about 10 minutes.
Stir in rice and cook for about 2 minutes, allowing the rice to absorb some oil.
Stir in spinach in small batches, waiting for each batch to wilt a bit before adding more. (If using those bricks of frozen spinach, just toss the whole brick in and break it up as the contents reach a boil.)
Stir in 1/4 tsp salt and a generous pinch of fresh ground black pepper.
Add 2 cups of water and turn up heat to bring mix to a boil.
Cover and reduce heat. Simmer for 30-40 minutes (or until rice is almost cooked), stirring occasionally.
Add the dill and nutmeg. Cook for another 10 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed, and the rice is thoroughly cooked.
Add another generous pinch of salt (up to 1/4 tsp) and more fresh black pepper to taste.
Stir in the lemon juice.
Transfer to serving dish and crumble feta on top.

Verdict? Wonderful. The spinach got nice and creamy, the lemon juice and feta imparted a nice contrasting tang, and the dill gave the whole thing an extra "fresh" taste. Serve as a main dish topped with a protein of your choice or as a great side.


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