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Like Green on Rice

March 10, 1994|FAYE LEVY

Cooks in Mediterranean countries often prepare greens and rice in one pot for a quick, easy and satisfying dish. The technique starts out like rice pilaf, with sauteed onion and sometimes garlic. Shredded greens are then cooked briefly with the onion. Next, the rice, broth or water and seasonings are added, and everything finishes cooking together in about 20 minutes. You can cook any tender greens this way; the best are spinach, Swiss chard, beet greens and green cabbage.

This method works because the greens cook quickly naturally. The water that is added to cook the rice creates enough steam to soften the greens. During the cooking, the rice absorbs flavor and aroma from the greens, which also contribute a moist, tender texture that complements the slightly chewy rice.

To make the dish even quicker, you can take advantage of packaged rinsed spinach, so there are no leaves to wash.

When the rice is cooked, sprinkle toasted almonds or pine nuts over the top. Fresh or sun-dried tomatoes or roasted sweet red peppers work well too. The greens and rice make a good accompaniment for roasted or grilled lamb, chicken or beef, but the dish also serves as a delightful vegetarian main course.

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This dish is popular in Lebanese and Armenian cuisines. It is most colorful when you use beet greens because of the combination of white rice, green leaves and reddish stems.

EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN GREENS WITH RICE

3/4 to 1 pound beet greens or Swiss chard or spinach

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 large garlic cloves, chopped

1 cup long-grain white rice

Salt

Freshly ground pepper

2 cups boiling water

3 tablespoons slivered almonds, toasted

Rinse greens thoroughly. Cut stems into 1/2-inch pieces. Chop leaves.

Heat oil in heavy skillet over medium heat. Add onion and saute 5 minutes, stirring often. Add beet stems and saute 2 minutes. Add leaves. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes or until very tender.

Add garlic and rice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Combine well. Add water. Cover and cook over low heat, without stirring, until rice is tender, about 18 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve sprinkled with toasted almonds. Makes 2 to 3 main-course or 4 side-dish servings.

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