This was one of my favorite childhood dishes. My mom used to make it almost every week; it was wholesome, healthy and inexpensive. On Sundays, she served it with grilled chicken, on a weekday it was a dinner waiting for me at the end of a long day, and I would gobble it up with a slice of bread and a glass of kefir. (Not sure why, but for me kefir remains the ideal pairing for it.) I think that the dish was my mom’s creation; I scouted all her Serbian cookbooks but never managed to find anything like it. It has elements of several ancient peasant dishes and therefore the name. My mom never wrote the recipe, she never does, and it took me a couple of attempts to get the quantities right and recreate the childhood flavors. And of course, a jar of sweet Hungarian paprika! —QueenSashy
leeks (white and light green parts only)
Carefully wash the leaks. (I ended up with soiled food so many times, and therefore cannot help but repeat the mantra.) Quarter the leeks lengthwise, and then slice thinly crosswise.
In a small pot, bring water to boil. Add the rice and boil for about 5 minutes. Drain the rice and set aside.
In a large saucepan combine the oil with the leeks and place over medium heat (you can heat the oil first, but starting the leeks in cold oil brings out a slightly different mellower flavor). Simmer the leeks for about 12 minutes, until very soft.
Add the garlic and continue to simmer for another minute or two.
Add the spinach, cover and continue to simmer until the spinach has wilted completely. (If needed add a drop of water.)
Preheat the oven to 340F. Add the rice to the leeks and spinach and generously season with salt and pepper. Add the Hungarian paprika, mix well and transfer into 9x13 inch casserole. (Any baking dish will do as long as the vegetable layer is quite thin, no more than 1 to 1 1/2 inches tall.)
Add about 2 cups of water to the casserole (you want the water barely covering the dish, and if needed you can always add more during baking.) Bake for about 45 minutes, or until all the water has evaporated, the rice is plump and the top of the casserole is nicely caramelized.
Serve the dish at room temperature. (And do not forget the kefir!)
Aleksandra aka QueenSashy is a scientist by day, and cook, photographer and doodler by night. When she is not writing code and formulas, she blogs about food, life and everything in between on her blog, Three Little Halves. Three Little Halves was nominated for 2015 James Beard Awards and the finalist for 2014 Saveur Best Food Blog Awards. Aleksandra lives in New York City with her other two halves, Miss Pain and Dr. V.