Mastiha Spanakorizo (Spinach and Rice Pilaf)

  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 large red onion, finely chopped

  • 1 large leek, trimmed, washed and finely chopped

  • 1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and finely chopped

  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

  • 1 cup basmati or jasmine rice

  • 1 pound (½ kilo) fresh, young spinach, trimmed and coarsely chopped

  • 3-4 medium Mastiha crystals

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • ½ cup chopped fresh dill

  • ½ cup finely chopped wild fennel

  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

  • Strained fresh juice of 1 lemon

  • ¼ pound (125 gr.) Greek feta

  1. In a large casserole or stewing pot, heat ¼ cup of olive oil and cook onions, leek, fennel and garlic over medium-low heat for 10-12 minutes, until the onions are soft and wilted. Do not brown. Add rice and stir for 1-2 minutes.

  2. Add spinach in batches of about 2 cups, tossing after each addition and waiting a few minutes for each batch to wilt and shrink a little so that it all fits in the pot. Season with salt. Stir in the Mastiha crystals, which will melt over the course of cooking. Add 1 cup of water. Cover and simmer for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, and adding more water if necessary to keep mixture moist. Add dill and nutmeg and continue to cook for another 20 minutes, until all the liquid has been absorbed and the spinach-rice pilaf is smooth and creamy. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, then add lemon juice and remaining olive oil.

  3. Spread the spanakorizo on a platter. Taking a vegetable peeler, shave the feta into thin curly pieces over the spinach and rice. Garnish if desired with lemon slices and serve either warm or at room temperature.