Golden rice with nettles (or spinach)

I had unfinished business with this rice. I was heating the last leftover serving in the microwave when my glass plate shattered into a thousand shards — why does this always happen when I’m reheating rice? I had to dump the whole thing into the trash.

I was actually more upset to lose the rice than the plate. I’d been looking forward to eating that rice. This is a simple concoction, but its rich and savory flavor makes a good base for a meal. Golden from fried onions and flecked with green from nettles, this is a seasonal dish — this is the time of year for fresh leafy greens. You can eat it alone, or serve it alongside some freshly cooked Turkish spinach (the intrepid can forage that, too), topped with toasted almonds and perhaps a little yogurt. A few slivers of fresh white cheese, or maybe some tomato, rounds out the meal.

So I needed to make more rice, in order to have that last serving. But here’s the catch — nettles can’t be bought at any supermarket, which is both their upside and their downside. Finding some after work in the evening means tramping through untended yards, trying to spot a nettle patch in the dark.

But I did it anyway — I found myself a little nettle patch, and filled a bag with fresh green leaves. My hands tingled from the little stings, but no worry, that passes quickly. The neighbors would probably thank me for pruning their weeds, had they noticed.

I like that nettles have a mild, alkaline flavor, but for those who aren’t into foraging, you could use spinach instead. And note the timing in this recipe — this is how you get perfect rice without actually being able to see into the pot. I’m using a cast-iron pot, for instance.

For more on foraging: What’s in our backyards, and wild plants in the markets.

For about 3 cups of cooked rice:

  • 1 medium-sized onion, or half a large onion
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cup long-grained rice such as Persian rice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh greens, preferably nettle, but spinach also works
  • Optional serving suggestions: Turkish spinach, slivered almonds, yogurt, a young white cheese such as tsfatit, bulgarian or mozzarella, and/or fresh tomato.

Prep time: 5 minutes. Cook time: 10 minutes.

Cut the onion into long strips, and cut the strips in half. In a pot with the lid, slowly heat the onions in the oil on medium heat until the onions become translucent.

Rinse the rice, and add to the pot along with the salt. Stir so that the rice is mixed with the onions and is coated with the oil.

Add 2 1/4 cups water to the pot as well as the fresh greens, and mix into the rice (most of the greens will float, but that’s fine).

Put the lid on the pot. Once you see a bit of steam escaping from around the lid, put the pot on your stove’s lowest flame, and let cook for 10 minutes. Then, shut the flame and leave the lid on the pot for another 5-10 minutes. Remove the lid and fluff the rice. If the rice still looks slightly damp, let it sit uncovered so that the moisture can steam off.

Serving suggestion: Serve alongside freshly cooked Turkish spinach (’tis the season), top with almonds (toast them in a dry pan on medium-high heat, stirring, until they brown slightly) or eat alongside yogurt. If you like, you can finely chop some fresh spinach and mix it into your yogurt. You also could serve with some slivers of tomato or a white cheese on the side.

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