Greek Spinach Rice Balls

Ready to eat

Ready to eat

Jen here.  I wrote earlier about my new-to-me Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites cookbook.  I just realized that, in spite of my screaming two-year old, it’s time to share (Dad’s home so I’m not totally neglecting my son – he’s preferring dad two-to-one during active melt-downs).

One of my goals is to eat what I grow, and I want to grow more greens, so I  need to eat more greens.  I saw this recipe and thought it would be a great place to start (eating, not growing).  Plus I love lemon and dill together.  We bought a big bag of spinach from Costco (2.5 pounds) and used most of it.  Both kids ate at least a couple of these apiece, but I ended up eating the rest over a couple of days, and they held up well.  I’ll post the recipe as written, with my notes in [brackets].

Greek Spinach Rice Balls, page 35

Makes about 24 Ping-Pong-sized balls; Total time: 40 minutes

These tasty rice balls are fun to make with the kids for an everyday meal or a snack.  They also make good finger food at parties and are a welcome contribution to dish-to-pass suppers.

2 pounds fresh spinach, washed and large stems removed
1 cup chopped scallions (about 6 scallions) [I used green onions]
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cups cooked brown rice
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill (2 teaspoons dried)
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 cup plain or herbed bread crumbs [throw slices of fresh bread in the blender/food processor until you have enough; if you have extra, you can store them in the the freezer]

In a large covered pot, steam the spinach in the water that clings to the leaves until just wilted, 2 or 3 minutes.  Drain and chop the spinach and set it aside.  In another pan, lightly saute the scallions in the oil for about 5 minutes, or until softened and slightly browned. [Okay – after spending a lot of time with the spinach, next time I will buy frozen, chopped from Trader Joes, thaw it and drain it really, really well.  I’d probably use about 2-3 cups of spinach.  If you do use the fresh, plan on either using a really big pot, or steaming it in a couple of batches.  2 pounds of spinach take up  a lot of space until it cooks down.  For the scallions, I harvested what few green onions I could find in my garden.]

Working the spinach

Working the spinach

Half the spinach

Half the spinach

Garden fresh green onions

Garden fresh green onions

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Mixing

Mixing

In a large mixing bowl, combine the spinach, scallions, rice, dill, and lemon juice.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Stir well, mashing the rice mixture against the sides of the bowl with the back of a large spoon until the mixture holds together.

Prepare a baking sheet or large baking dish with cooking spray or a very light coating of vegetable oil.  With dampened hands, pack a heaping 1/4 cup of the rice mixture into a firm round ball (like making a snowball). [I found that I didn’t drain the spinach well enough – so my hands were definitely damp.  I squeezed a lot of extra liquid out as I was shaping the balls.  Also, I used closer to a heaping 1/8-cup since my first 1/4-cup ball was as huge as a $1.49 jawbreaker.  I wanted something I could actually fit in my mouth, and so aimed for the recommended ping-pong ball.]

Drain well

Drain well

About the size of a ping pong ball

About the size of a ping pong ball

Roll the ball in the bread crumbs and place it on the baking sheet.  Continue making balls until all of the rice mixture is used, arranging the balls on the baking sheet about an inch apart.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the balls are heated through and crisp on the outside.

VARIATION: Add 1 cup of grated feta cheese to the rice mixture.

My best almost-present

Jen here again!  One of my best not-presents this year is cookbook that belonged to my sister-in-law, Romi.  Romi completed a culinary arts course in Salt Lake, and she was able to work in the industry in the years before she passed away.  I just discovered that some of her books are at my in-law’s house, and on Christmas Eve I borrowed Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites (scroll down to see the book in the link) from The Moosewood Collective published in 1996.  I’ve had the book for a week, and have loved reading through it.    I have several sticky note tabs and have cooked two recipes already (Greek Spinach Rice Balls and Banana Muffins).  My kids have liked both of them, and I will share them in later posts, with my notes and suggestions.

I suppose, someday, if asked, I might consider returning the book . . . but since my brother-in-law is up smoking sausage for his New Year’s Eve party (I know – I’m sure there’s a joke in there somewhere), I may get to enjoy this book for quite some time.