In Athens, but also in most of the parts of Greece, once a week, every neighborhood has its farmers’ market, which is called “laiki agora” meaning peoples’ (popular) markets.
There you can find freshly cut, ripened-to-perfection fruits, vegetables, produce, herbs, fish, flowers, plants, clothes and household items. Usually the marketplace occupies four or five roads and the stalls are put together from the crack of dawn and start disassembling after 3 p.m, once they have sold out.
These street markets are organized by the local municipalities who determine where they will be set and usually the place is fixed. The producers or the merchants selling their produce have their fixed spot and pay a due to the municipality. On its part, the municipality is responsible to provide them with mobile toilets, which they place in nearby streets, from the previous night and after the market finishes at about 4 p.m., immediately the garbage collectors pass and gather everything they have left behind and clean the roads and of course collect the toilets.
Most people prefer to go and do their shopping there as apart from everything being fresh when it is near ending time they reduce the prices considerably, so that they can sell out and you can get the vegetables and fish really cheap. Of course that is the most crowded time. However, some products are still expensive even at the farmers’ markets.
Last Tuesday, which by the way is the day my neighbourhood has its street market I spotted some really expensive things. Chestnuts ranged from 6 – 9 euros a kilo, walnuts (in their shell) from 3 to 6 euros a kilo, mushrooms around 6 euros a kilo and stamnagathi (chicorium spinosun, a coastal chicory, a small tasty leaf which the Minoans used to serve up with oil and vinegar) which is a wild green found mainly in Crete was 12 euros a kilo. No thanks! These were too expensive and we can wait until prices are cheaper.
I usually make supplies to last until the following week and this week among other things I bought spinach, which was cheap, to make spanakoryzo.
Spanakoryzo is a vegan dish and means spinach and rice.
This is the traditional recipe for this delicious dish that is a warming and hearty meal but mostly nutritious and healthy and we usually serve it as a main dish but if you like you can serve it as a side dish as well. This is a Greek dish that our family loves and we enjoy, especially during lent. The quantity of rice added depends on what you want to prevail in the dish. When my children were younger and did not like spinach, I used to add more rice but now we love it with less rice.
Depending on the availability of other aromatic herbs, we add kafkalithres, myronia, fennel fronds, seskoula (baby chard, called seskla in Argolida), koukakia (young leaves of fava beans) and vrouves, mustard greens (Sinapis arvensis).
Serve it with Greek yoghurt or Greek Feta or Green or Kalamata olives, or Gavros Marinatos (marinated anchovies) and lots of crusty bread to mop up the sauce and you have heaven.
Spanakoryzo (Spinach and Rice)
Preparation time: 15 minutes (without the cleaning and washing of fresh spinach)
Cooking time: about 1 hour 20 minutes
Serves: 6 – 7
- 750 grams fresh spinach (about 500 grams frozen)
- 1 cup of Carolina rice (or any risotto rice)
- 1/4 cup of olive oil
- 1 medium red onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- ½ cup of dill, finely chopped
- ½ cup parsley, finely chopped
- (Other optional herbs: kafkalithres, myronia or fennel fronds)
- 5 ripe tomatoes or 1 can (500 gr.) whole tomatoes with juice, blended with 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 cups water
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 bio vegetable cube
- Clean and wash spinach and if leaves are big, remove the stem and cut it into 2 or 3 pieces. If not place them whole in a big pot without adding any water (just the water which is still on the leaves) and place on heat stirring for about 5 minutes, until the spinach wilts. (This will reduce the volume of the leaves and most of the water can be drained easier). Drain and set aside. Frozen spinach can also be used.
- Heat the olive oil and sauté the onion until translucent. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute.
- Add the spinach and mix a couple of times.
- Add tomato and tomato paste, water, vegetable cube, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 45 minutes.
- Add the rice, dill and parsley and stir.
- Cook for 20 minutes, making sure to stir regularly until rice is cooked. If necessary add more hot water.
- Serve with Kalamata or green olives, feta cheese or with Greek yoghurt.
Tip No. 1: Add herbs towards the end as they keep all their aroma and flavor.
Tip No. 2: You can prepare the dish ahead and just before lunch add the rice and serve it immediately, while still hot. The longer you will leave it the rice will continue absorbing the juices and it will become very dry.
Kopiaste and Kali Orexi,