Golden Rice Pie with Spinach Filling

Adapted from Vegetable Heaven
Preparation time: 2 hours (35 minutes of work)
Yield: 8 or more servings

If you love rice dishes with a distinct flair, try this one. Brown basmati rice is blended with a tart, lemony custard, layered with boldly seasoned spinach, and baked until golden brown. Pine nuts and pomegranate seeds are sprinkled on top just before serving, for an exotic finishing touch. This is a great choice for potluck dinners—it travels well and feeds a crowd.

  • To streamline preparation time, cook the onions and rice at the same time.
  • You will thank yourself for grating the lemon zest before juicing the lemon.
3 cups uncooked brown basmati rice
4 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups minced onion
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg 1 pound spinach, cleaned, stemmed, and minced
2 cups lowfat yogurt
1 egg
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper

Butter for the baking dish
Lightly toasted pine nuts for garnish
Pomegranate seeds (optional)

  1. Place the rice and water in a saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook over very low heat until tender (about 40 minutes). Fluff with a fork to let steam escape, and set aside to cool a little.
  2. While the rice is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet. When it is very hot, add the onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and turn the heat to medium-low. Stir and cook for about 5 minutes, then cover and let it cook for another 30 minutes.
  3. After the onion has cooked for 30 minutes, stir in the garlic and spices, and cook for about 5 minutes longer. Turn the heat way up and add the spinach and another 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir-fry for just a few minutes, or until all the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Generously butter a 2-quart lidded casserole or ovenproof skillet, about 10 inches in diameter and 2 to 3 inches deep.
  5. Place the yogurt, egg, lemon zest, and lemon juice in a large bowl and sprinkle in 1 teaspoon salt and the white pepper. Beat well, the add the rice and mix thoroughly.
  6. Press half the rice into the buttered casserole. Lift the spinach mixture from the skillet with a slotted spoon and spread it over the rice. Cover the spinach filling with the remaining rice, smoothing it firmly into place.
  7. If the baking dish has a tight-fitting lid, butter the lid before covering the rice. If the lid fits loosely, line it with a piece of foil before putting it in place. Bake, covered, for 45 minutes in the center rack of the oven, then for another 10 minutes on the bottom shelf. Remove the pan from the oven, and let it sit for about 10 minutes, then invert it onto a platter. It will have a beautiful golden crust.
  8. Serve hot or warm, cut into wedges, and sprinkled with toasted pine nuts and a few pomegranate seeds, if available.