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.

santorini fava

This is probably the most famous dish from the most famous Greek island, the lovely Santorini.  Most people think of Santorini as quiet and peaceful; to us, it’s busy and crazy, because it’s the large central island in the neighborhood of the tiny island where we lived.  So where most people go to Santorini to get away from it all, we went “to the city” in Santorini.

Santorini is famous, food-wise, for a few things:  yellow split peas, tomatoes, and wine are the big ones.  The most common way to prepare yellow split peas is a dish called “fava.”  Fava has nothing to do with fava beans.  It only uses yellow split peas.  (Fava beans are used very rarely in Greece, because a significant chunk of the population is allergic to them.)

This is a really quick dish to prepare if you have a pressure cooker, which, as I’ve mentioned before, you really should if you eat legumes with any regularity.

I tend to be lazy about rinsing things (rice, beans, etc.) but you  really do need to rinse yellow split peas.  They get very foamy if you don’t, and that can cause problems in the pressure cooker.

Cover them with water by about 1 cm, and add a bay leaf.  Cook under pressure for about 6 minutes.  (In my pressure cooker, as soon as it reaches pressure, I turn off the burner completely.  However, whether you can get away with that will depend on your stove.)

When you open it up, the liquid should be absorbed and the peas should be very soft.  If they look like yellow mush, that’s great.  If they still have their shape but are very soft, that’s fine too.

Add onion, garlic, Greek oregano, salt, freshly ground pepper, red wine vinegar, and olive oil.

Blend with an immersion blender.  If you don’t have an immersion blender, use a food processor.

Serve, topping with onion cut sideways and capers, and more olive oil.

This is not the ‘restaurant-style’ fava that you may have had before.  If you want ‘restaurant-style,’ leave out the oregano and go nuts with the olive oil.

Serve with olives, bread, and maybe a little feta cheese.

Santorini Fava
serves 4 as appetizer or 2 as main dish

200g yellow split peas, well rinsed
1 dried bay leaf
1 small onion; chop 1/2, slice 1/2
2-3 cloves garlic, pressed
1.5 tbsp Greek oregano
1 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp capers, rinsed

1.  Put the yellow split peas and the bay leaf in the pressure cooker.  Cover with water by 1 cm.  Cook under pressure for about 6 minutes.  Allow pressure to release naturally.

2. Put chopped onion, pressed garlic, oregano, salt, pepper, vinegar, and 1 tbsp olive oil into pot with peas.  Blend very thoroughly with immersion blender.

3.  Serve, topping with sliced onion, capers, and remaining olive oil.

Nutritional Information
per serving, i.e., 1/2 of the total recipe.

561 calories
22g fat (3g saturated, 19g unsaturated)
70g carbohydrate
26g protein
27g dietary fiber
0mg cholesterol
1298mg sodium (54% DV)
1212mg potassium (35% DV)
Contains a significant amount (+10% DV) of the following:
calcium, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B-6, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, vitamin C, iron, riboflavin, folate, manganese, and copper.

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