By Marilyn Michael
|Creamy Spinach & Feta on Coconut Rice|
When we were growing up in the 1950's, rice was just "rice" always served with milk, sugar and raisins. Savory rice was an oxymoron until I was assigned Spanish rice in High School Home Ec. My mom would be amazed that currently I have a plethora of rice available including Basmati, Arborio, medium grain and Jasmine. The Arborio is for a comforting cabbage rice soup recipe from a favorite food blog, Orangette.blogspot.com. The Basmati is for the Indian dishes I enjoy making. The medium grain is for filling in if I’m short on Basmati, for rice pudding or in case we should get a hankering for that old favorite rice with milk and sugar (I never liked the raisins). The Jasmine is new.
Wandering an upscale supermarket the other evening they were serving it at a tasting station. The promotion was coconut water and they were tempting shoppers with Coconut Rice - Jasmine rice cooked in coconut water with fresh chopped cilantro stirred into the hot rice. It was a taste epiphany, wow! The coconut water didn't give it a coconut taste, just a subtle and delicious sweetness. I immediately grabbed up some Jasmine rice, a couple cans of coconut water and some fresh cilantro and couldn't wait to get home. We were eating it directly out of the rice cooker.
Spinach, in our growing up years, came from a can. It was served swimming in a little butter and cider vinegar (my husband claims his mom would use sweet pickle juice sometimes). Amidst my food adventuring I'd learned to make Spanakopita. Little Greek-inspired pastries filled with spinach, onion, sour cream and Feta cheese. One holiday season I was determined to learn the art of Phyllo dough wanting to make the unusual savory treat as a gift for some neighbors and friends. I watched YouTube videos on Filo and fiddled with it until I had my desired gifts - containers filled with frozen unbaked Spanakopita to pop into the oven for fifteen minutes and enjoy at their leisure. Later, I found the Indian recipe for Saag Paneer (greens with Paneer Cheese), similar to the Spanakopita filling involving spinach, onion and yogurt fried together with the addition of the fresh Paneer cheese fried in cubes.
Home from the supermarket on the "rice night" I had planned to make some of the Spanakopita filling and just enjoy it straight. There was my creamy spinach mixture smelling delicious with the tang of the Feta throughout, next to my coconut rice. Hmm. I plopped some of the flavorful spinach on top of some rice and, as is now said, OMG!
As an extra treat the two elements are versatile. You can experiment with Filo, like I did, and enjoy Spanakopita. You can spoon some left overs onto the rice or top it with Tandoori Chicken or another Indian dish you can pick up at take out buffets now available at markets like Whole Foods. The rice is so good, even eating it straight is a treat, sort of a gourmet lighter take on the rice with milk and sugar your mom might have made you as a child.
1 cup Jasmine rice
2 cups coconut water, (I use a 17.6 oz. can of Whole Foods 365 brand)
Large pinch of salt
Simmer rice in the coconut water and salt until done or place in a rice cooker and enjoy when done. (I have a small rice cooker and the sugar in the water does cause a little toasting (not burning) of the rice on the bottom. Check your rice cooker the first time close to end of cooking.
Creamy Spinach with Feta Cheese
1 - 16 oz. bag of frozen chopped spinach thawed and pressed in a colander to drain thoroughly
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 large sweet onion, roughly chopped
6 Tablespoons sour cream
Salt to taste
3 oz of crumbled Feta cheese (more if desired)
A nice addition would be a handful of lightly toasted pine nuts
(When made for Spanakopita filling I add to the spinach and onion, 1 egg whisked with a little spinach mixture in it before adding in order to temper it.)
Thaw the spinach. Rough chop the onion. Fry the onion slowly on medium low heat in 2 Tablespoons oil until it softens and begins to brown. Add the spinach and stir together continuing to fry on medium low to heat. Add the sour cream and stir together until heated. Add the crumbled feta cheese and continue heating a bit but letting the Feta remain in chunks. When heated through top with pine nuts if desired.
Serve on top of the Coconut Rice.