Spanakorizo is a type of Greek dish made primarily of spinach and rice. It is sometimes compared to Italian risotto because of its creaminess, and it is frequently eaten during the observance of the religious period of Lent because it is a vegetarian dish. There are only a few ingredients in the traditional recipe, including onion, spinach, dill and olive oil, although more elaborate preparations can include green onions, leeks, cheese and garlic. The ingredients are cooked together in a pot, frying the herbs and vegetables until they have cooked through before adding the rice to the pan and allowing it to cook in some liquid — either water or stock — until it is soft. The finished meal can be served on its own, as a side dish, or as a stuffing for vegetables or savory pastries.
The basic vegetables in spanakorizo are onions, spinach and dill. The onions and dill are finely chopped, while the spinach is only coarsely chopped because it will dramatically reduce in size. Leeks also can be added, as can garlic, green onions, parsley, chili peppers, tomato sauce or chickpeas. Most of the ingredients can be fried in olive oil first so they develop flavor and cook properly, although some recipes reserve the spinach and do not add it to the dish until near the end of cooking so it does not overcook.
Once the vegetables and herbs for spanakorizo are cooked, the rice is added. Any variety of rice can be used, but short grain is the most authentic choice for the dish. Brown rice can be used to attain a slightly rougher texture in the final meal and to add some dietary fiber, although the cooking times would need to be increased to compensate. Whatever variety is being used, the rice is added to the pan and allowed to cook for a few minutes in the hot olive oil until it acquires a nutty aroma and begins to turn a little golden.
Water or stock is added to the pot next, just as if the rice were being made by itself. Unlike Italian risotto, to which spanakorizo is frequently compared, the rice should not be stirred while it is cooking. Instead, spanakorizo should be allowed to boil until it has absorbed the water and becomes soft. Before the rice has completed cooking, however, the spinach should be added and allowed to cook on top of the rice, preferably while there is still liquid in the pan.
The complete spanakorizo can be served as is, or it can have fresh lemon juice and a sprig of dill placed on top as a garnish. If left slightly undercooked, it can be used as a filling for roasted vegetables. Feta cheese or olives also can be added to the completed mixture to help add a sharp, salty note.