Words and images by Caitlin.
I don’t usually tell people this, but I’m an absent-minded cook. I don’t follow recipes closely, I don’t go out of my way to source obscure ingredients (notwithstanding the Saffron Incident of 2006, but in my defense, I was trying to impress a boy). I’m a big fan of kitchen serendipity. Sometimes the weirdest substitutions can bring the sweetest results.
That’s why I love pilafs. A pilaf is a flavourful rice dish that, once you get the basic schtick down, is infinitely modifiable. You can add in whatever veggies and herbs you have on hand, and it never comes out the same way twice. I whipped this one up last night after a long and lovely day in the garden, and it was exactly the cure for my spring fever: fresh, easy, satisfying, simple to customize. I even got to throw in a few handfuls of early mint from my backyard.
This dish is based on the Greek-Style Pilaf recipe from The Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home cookbook, which is one of my perennial go-to cookbooks. I just love the combination of the mint, parsley, and lemon here–it’s such a bright flavour bouquet. With the added spinach and feta, this is the pilaf equivalent of a tasty slice of spanakopita, with hearty brown rice instead of flaky phyllo. And because I cannot resist its creamy perfection, I added a bit of avocado to the mix before serving. Avocado makes everything better–it’s science. If you cook the rice in advance, you can have this puppy on the table (or the back porch) in about half an hour. It pairs well with a bottle or two of local Waupoos Cider fresh from Prince Edward County. Enjoy.
Adapted from The Moosewood Restaurant
Prep time: 30 minutes.
- 1 white onion, diced
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 zucchini, diced
- 1-2 tsp. white wine or white balsamic vinegar
- 2-3 cloves garlic, chopped or minced
- 4 cups fresh spinach (I substituted Swiss chard for about half of this amount)
- 4 cups cooked brown rice (my go-to rice method comes from The Kitchn)
- 3 Tbsp lemon juice
- ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
- ¼ cup fresh mint, chopped
- 1 cup feta cheese, diced
- ½ cup cherry tomatoes, diced
- ½ to 1 avocado, diced
- salt and pepper to taste
Heat olive oil in a large skillet or frying pan. Add onions, salt and pepper, and saute till the onions are transparent; Add the zucchini and the wine/vinegar and continue to saute till zucchini and onions are tender, usually about 5 minutes.
Add rice, garlic, spinach, and half the lemon juice. Cook over medium heat till the rice is heated and the greens are slightly wilted. Add parsley and mint, reserving a few mint leaves for serving. Cook 1-2 minutes more and remove from heat. Add remaining lemon juice and stir.
To serve, dish it out and top with feta cheese, avocado, mint, and cherry tomatoes. I like to serve this in a soup bowl with a bed of baby spinach at the bottom (this is also convenient for outdoor eating).Add to favorites