baked spanakoryzo

Spanakoryzo is a lovely Greek dish that combines spinach and rice.  It’s basically a spinach risotto, with onion and dill, cooked on the stove.  I used to make it that way too, but when I started cooking in my Siphnian clay pot, I reevaluated several of my favorite recipes for clay pot potential.  This was one of the big successes.

I only ever make spanakoryzo on Saturday afternoons.  That’s because Saturday morning is the farmers’ market.  I only buy spinach at the farmers’ market.  The price is great.  I got all of this spinach:

for €1.00.  Can’t beat that!

I used Greek shallots, but the best kind of onion to use is green onions.  I just didn’t have any.  But if you do, use those instead.

You can use any kind of rice you like.  Brown rice works great in this dish.  I used white because brown rice costs about four times as much!

Dill and parsley are the two big herbs used in Greek cooking.  I am the crazy American who uses dried dill.  Greeks usually buy a bunch of dill and a bunch of parsley every week.  Or several bunches of each.  That can easily add up to €100 per year.  You can grow your own, but you’d have to grow a lot to supply a Greek kitchen, where many recipes call for 2-3 cups of parsley.  Dried herbs don’t work everywhere, but dried dill works great here.  It saves me a lot of money because there is no waste and a bottle costs only a few euros and lasts a whole year.

The ground meat is completely optional.  This is the only time I’ve ever used it.  My mother in law uses ground meat (I suppose ground pork) in hers and S wanted me to try it.  That’s why it’s in the photos.  But I’d recommend you try it without the meat the first time.  The presence of the meat makes the dish less all about spinach.  That might be a good thing for some people, but I think I prefer this the vegetarian way.   Greek cooks usually use either ground pork, or a half-and-half combination of ground pork and ground beef.  Ground lamb is very rare, despite what many Americans think.  I found ground beef on sale last Halloween so that’s what I used.

First, clean the spinach:  grasp the spinach plant by the root end and hold the leaves in your other hand, and twist your hands in opposite directions.  Put red wine vinegar in a lot of cold water – in a large pot, or in a very clean sink if you are doing a lot of spinach – and drop the leaves into the water.  Swirl around really well and transfer the spinach to a colander with your hands.  You shouldn’t need to do multiple rinses unless your spinach is really muddy.  Preparing spinach doesn’t have to be a huge waste of water.  The vinegar helps get the dirt off the leaves.

Chop the onions.  If you’re using green onions, include the green parts and the white parts.

If you want to use ground meat, go ahead and brown it first.

Put the ingredients into a large bowl or pot – I find that my pressure cooker pot is best for this because it’s so large – in layers.  Put a layer of spinach on the bottom, then some rice, some meat if using, some onions, and some of your dill and salt; repeat, but reserve about 2 handfuls of spinach for later.

Mix it all up.

Put it in your clay pot.  You will probably need to press down on the spanakoryzo to get it all in the pot.  Remember, the spinach will lose the vast majority of its volume when it cooks.

When it’s all in there, put your reserved spinach on top.  The reason for this is that whatever is on top is going to be dried out; dried out baked spinach is delicious, but dried out baked rice is not.

Pop the lid on and put it in your cold oven.  An hour later…

Baked Spanakoryzo
Serves 4 (or 2 if they’re really hungry)

as much spinach as you can fit in your clay pot (250g in my case)
200g rice
1 cup green onions, chopped
1 tbsp dried dill or 3 tbsp fresh dill
1 tsp salt
red wine vinegar to wash the spinach
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
Optional:  150g ground beef, ground pork, or a mixture of the two

1.  Wash the spinach with the vinegar and cool water in a large pot.  Remove the spinach in handfuls to a colander and set aside.

2.  Brown the meat if using in its own fat (no added oil) with freshly ground salt and pepper.

3.  Set aside 2 handfuls of spinach leaves.  In a large pot, combine the remaining spinach, rice, onions, dill, and salt in two layers.  Stir it all together, and fill the clay pot.  Layer the reserved spinach on top, pour 1 cup water over everything, and place the lid on the clay pot.

4.  Put the pot in a cold (not preheated) oven.  Bake at 200 degrees Celsius for 1 hour.

5.  Serve with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt on top.

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23 thoughts on “baked spanakoryzo

    • Is he picky in general, or are spinach and rice the big no-nos? I consider myself incredibly lucky because there are no foods that I like that S doesn’t. Our taste in food is practically identical and has been since we met – which we thought was very odd!

      • We have some likes in common, but most nights I cook two different meals. I’m semi-vegetarian, and will happily live on veg & rice/pasta as long as there is some cheese in there somewhere. He isn’t wild about veg, and needs more meat!

  1. Hi Heidi,
    The recipe looks great.
    Seems a bit like spanikopita – I bet my family will like it.

    When I was in the Dominican Republic, I was taught to clean the fresh lettuce by swirling it in a sink with a capful of bleach. Yeah, like Clorox.

    For those of us who aren’t lucky enough to have fresh spinach form the farmer, and get ours pre-cleaned from a sealed bag at the grocery store, I wonder if a quick dip in the vinegar would be a good idea. (The lettuce acquired a bit of a sour flavor from the Clorox – some liked, some hated.) Wonder if the vinegar adds something to the recipe?
    ~ Dana

    • I wonder if the bleach was meant to protect you from potentially contaminated water, as well as to clean the spinach? The vinegar won’t decontaminate bad water, but it will loosen mud and dirt from the spinach, which is good since spinach is usually very dirty (more so than just about any other non-tuber vegetable). There’s no added flavor whatsoever from the vinegar – not even when you serve it raw in a salad. I use only a few tablespoons for a large pot of clean cold water (or a sinkful of water), so that’s probably why.

  2. Once again, your farmers’ market veg looks wonderful! I’m very envious of your sources.
    I guess the basic dish is a Lenten vegetarian dish. I’ve had it once in a favourite taverna but will try making some in the oven with your recipe. Is there really enough water in the spinach for the rice? or would it be better to add a bit to the pot?
    I agree that the spinach taste may be diluted with ground meat included, so I think I’ll cook some seared meat with onions, etc (mince or maybe a thin pork loin or leg steak?) alongside in a separate casserole.
    Mmmmm …. Looking forward to it already!!! Hope I can find spinach in the supermarket soon.

    • oops – for some reason I deleted the line about adding water – I’ve fixed that now. You want to add about a cup of water to the pot on top of the last bit of spinach after it’s added. Thanks for pointing that out!

  3. Hi Heidi, I just came across your blog and enjoy reading it. I tried this recipe this week and I liked it. I think I’ll try it with other greens in the future as well. It’s very easy and versatile. Thank you for sharing…I forward to trying more of your recipes.

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