Almost every cuisine has a version of rice which speaks to the culture and the ingredients that symbolize it. So when I recently made pork souvlaki (recipe here), I wanted to make a rice dish that would both complement the rest of the meal … but still be something of a new creation.
If you’ve wandered through the recipes of this blog, you know that I love and adore risotto … and love weaving new ingredients through the essential arborio rice which gives the dish its tell-tale creaminess. The only downside of risotto, and it is hardly a downside at all, is that it takes twice as long as regular rice to manually coax all the beautiful creamy starch out of this short-grained rice. I’ve never, however, used arborio rice to make anything other than risotto. And while I’m not a purist, I do put a lot of stock in labels: that is to say, if you’re going to label something with a classic name, it better live up to that label. And to be “risotto” means doing more than boiling arborio rice. There is a clear method to the dish which defines it. Still, I wondered, what if I used this Italian rice to make something inspired by the flavours of Greece? Would I start a Mediterranean war — or would it work? What would happen if I did in fact ‘just’ boil the arborio rice? While I had no misconceived notions of it turning out as risotto, how close would it come?
The experiment would have to start with isolating the right flavours and textures. And, for starters, there were three CSA ingredients in the fridge that I wanted to get out of the fridge — and this is where not only the inspiration but the recipe really took hold: dill, zucchini, and a few leaves of kale. I chose the kale for a couple reasons: the zucchini skin was kind of banged up so I resolved to uncharacteristically peel it (which is far from recommended), so I thought I would balance out the lost nutrition and colour with the kale leaves. It worked exceptionally well, I must say. So for all those people out there that say “I don’t know what to do with kale?” well, here’s one simple solution.
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure how zucchini, peeled or otherwise, was going to stand up to being boiled in rice, but I was committed to emptying the crisper, so the experiment got the green-light to proceed. What happened to it? It did in fact boil down as I expected — and feared — but here’s what I didn’t expect: boiled down, it actually blended with the creaminess of the rice’s starch to produce something akin to real risotto. Impressive … and very tasty and without any textural “yuk” factor at all.The rice took a little longer to cook than regular long-grain rice, but the extra moisture from the zucchini worked well to extend the cooking and keep everything in balance. I did add a bit of cream to the dish — after the cooking — to extend the creaminess of the rice a bit more … especially because I knew I wasn’t going to be adding the ubiquitous Parmesan of a true risotto.
The dill and the kale combined to produce a nice olive drab green in the rice and, from a distance, I am surprised how much it reminds me of Greek grape leaves. But, more than colour, they left the rice with a gorgeous flavour.
… And, finally, to pull it all together, and unite it with the other Greek flavours of the meal, I completed the dish with a sprinkling of crumbled feta and a squeeze of fresh lemon. Yes, don’t forget the lemon — it really is the key ingredient to it all. And in an instant — or 30 minutes — the transformation was complete. While it wasn’t risotto, it was certainly a Greek-Styled Rice that made everyone shout Opa!
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes
Greek-Style Rice with Dill and Feta
- 1 cup (250mL) arborio rice
- 2 cups (500mL) chicken stock
→ substitute water or veggie stock if you want to make this vegetarian
- 2 tablespoons (30mL) olive oil
- 1 cup (250mL) zucchini, cubed
- 1/4 (65mL) cup kale, chiffonade
- 3/4 cup (190mL) onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1½ (20mL) tablespoon dill, chiffonade
- 1 teaspoon (5mL) Kosher salt
- 1/4 cup (65mL) whipping cream
- 1 lemon, cut into wedges
- 2 ounces (55g) feta, crumbled
- extra virgin olive oil to garnish
- Do all of your chopping prep at once because the cooking moves very quickly. Cube the zucchini, chop the onion, chiffonade the kale, and mince the garlic and chop the dill.
- Heat a deep sauté pan (with a lid) or a medium pot over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and the onion and sauté for 5 minutes.
Add zucchini and kale and sauté for 5 minutes more.
Add the kale and garlic and fry 1 minute longer.
- Add the arborio rice and fry for a minute until the pearls of the rice show through the transparent grains.
Add the stock and deglaze the pan. Add the salt and bring to boil. Cover and reduce to simmer and cook for 20 minutes.
- Fluff rice with fork and carefully fold in the cream.
- Serve on plates with sprinkling of feta, a drizzle of olive oil, and wedge of lemon.
Serve along with Pork Souvlaki and fresh Greek Salad.