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The Eastern shores of Spain or the Levant is actually made up of two kingdoms, the Pais Valenciano and Murcia. The Levant is better known for its beach resorts in Valencia and south of it, known as the Costa Blanca.
It's further recognized as the land of the Paella. This famous rice dish may be Spain's best known culinary contribution, but it is nevertheless, native to Levant.
On the low, coastal regions, where the water is abundant, rice has been a staple food for many centuries, since the Moors introduced its cultivation. Some areas in the Levant area actually receive an average rainfall lower than some parts of the Sahara Desert.
The land is well irrigated with a complex irrigation system still in use dating back to the Moors also and for their innovative know-how; this area is sometimes called the “market basket.” Of course, the Valencia province is famous for its oranges, but it also contains a potpourri of many other fruits and vegetables, including spinach.
Spinach or as it is known in Spain, “espinaca” arrived around the year 1100. Over the next century, spinach spread throughout Europe, being grown primarily in monastery gardens.
The Rice and Spinach “Meatballs” can be served as tapas (appetizer) or a main entrée. In the Valencia region, it is served during the summer months, as it can be prepared in advance to avoid the midday heat. It is delicious with or without the sauce.
This recipe will serve 4 to 6
2 lbs. fresh spinach leaves
½ cup rice
4 slices bacon or 1 cup chopped smoked ham
½ lb. in total of assorted cheeses (Roquefort, Swiss and Cheddar are good choices)
2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp red wine
Flour and beaten egg (for coating)
2 cups tomato sauce
1 cup cream
1 cup chicken stock
Olive oil for frying
Parsley (for garnish)
1. Chop garlic and onion and saute in pan with a splash of oil.
2. Place bacon to the pan with the garlic and onion.
3. Season and cook for 20 minutes.
4. Add rice to a separate pot and double the amount of water to rice.
5. Cook the spinach in a saucepan with plenty of oil for 4-5 minutes. Drain, cut-up and reserve.
6. Chop cheese and insert it into a mixing bowl.
7. Add the cooked bacon, onion, garlic and chopped spinach and stir in with the cheese and red wine.
8. Add the rice and mix well.
9. Shape into “meatballs,” and dredge each with beaten egg and flour.
10. Deep fry in a pan with plenty of oil. Drain and reserve.
1. To make the sauce, mix the broth, tomato sauce and cream in a saucepan.
2. Heat for 8-10 minutes.
3. Add in the rice/spinach balls to heat up.
4. Serve and garnish with parsley flakes.
Fresh spinach shrinks when cooked, so that is why it is best to purchase more. When choosing spinach leaves, seek out those in the market that are smooth and firm.
Other posts by Veronica:
Swordfish Alicante Style
Canelones Rellenos con Gambas
Pinchos de Gambas (Shrimp Skewers)
Sopa de Crema de Ajo (Cream of Garlic Soup)
Tortilla Española (Spanish Omelet)
Albóndigas de Arroz y Espinaca (Rice and Spinach Meatballs)
Crema Catalana (Catalonian Custard)