Spinach with Extra Virgin Olive oil (Zeytinyağlı Ispanak)

When fresh spinach meets hot summer weather, there is only one way for us to make this dark green leaves and one way to eat: Cooked it with some extra virgin olive oil and just a little bit of rice, eaten with  big dollop of thick, cold yogurt on top.

This is one of the typical light summer side dishes I was talking about several weeks earlier. Vegetables and legumes, such as cranberry beans, white beans, leeks, spinach, purslane, fava beans, eggplant, zucchini…whatever you can think of, you can just saute diced onions in some olive oil,add the vegetables and cook it in their own juice or freshly grated tomato (for legumes, soak them overnight then add some water until they are done). To some (spinach, purslane and leeks), we add also 2-3 tablespoons of rice just to give a bit fullness to the dish.

We normally serve these dishes cold, so you can make it ahead of time and store in the fridge. Some people would rather take the chill out, so you can warm it up if you want to. However, after a long day of running errands on a hot summer day, there is nothing more than I want to cool down with a cold vegetable dish, eaten with a piece of crusty bread and sometimes with cold yogurt on top.

Spinach with Extra Virgin Olive Oil

  • 2 lbs of fresh spinach (washed, coarsely chopped, discard the roots)
  • 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion (diced)
  • 2 tablespoon uncooked rice
  • 5 tablespoons of water
  • 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Wash rice and cover with water. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a thick-bottom pan for a minute on medium heat. Add onions, saute until they turn translucent.

Add spinach, in batches if needed. After you add each batch, close the lid, let it lose its volume. Add another batch whenever the mound collapses and you have more room in the pan. Continue until you add all 2 lbs of spinach in the pan.

Drain the rice, add to spinach along with water, salt and pepper. Stir, cover the pan with the lid. Cook for 20-30 min or until rice and spinach are done. Add more water along the way if necessary. But spinach gives out enough water if you keep the pot lid closed. It should not be a watery dish.


  1. by Jenni
    9:22 pm
    May 13, 2012

    I love this technique! We get so many greens from the produce box people, so this is a great way to eat them. You are so smart and share-y! Thanks for that:)

  2. by Jeanette
    10:42 pm
    May 14, 2012

    Ilke, hope you are doing well. Love the simple preparation of this dish and that you eat can eat it cold. Definitely something to try this summer with all the fresh produce coming soon to farmer’s markets.

  3. by Terra
    11:34 pm
    May 15, 2012

    Is that yogurt you complimented with the spinach, or a creamy cheese? I love the idea of a creamy treat complimented with spinach, very unique! Hugs, Terra

  4. by Thyme (Sarah)
    8:22 am
    May 16, 2012

    A great way to use up all of the spinach we are constantly using for salads, salads, and more salads. I imagine there are all sorts of veggies or beans that can be added to this. I could use it as a side dish to fish or chicken over here. BTW: I’ll take any advice on Istanbul you have! Any hotel recommendations, etc. What do you think is the best time of year to be there? (we want to escape heat and crowds)

  5. by Susan
    4:10 pm
    May 16, 2012

    I love spinach and this looks delightful with the yogurt. Sometimes I’ll add cooked quinoa to my veggies to give them a little ‘bulk’ too!

  6. by Valentina
    1:43 am
    May 20, 2012

    I’m loving this! I will definitely try it this week! Can’t wait! :-)

  7. by All That I'm Eating
    3:51 pm
    May 20, 2012

    I think I would eat this cold rather than warm it up, great on a hot day. This sounds lovely.

  8. by Parsley Sage
    10:39 am
    May 21, 2012

    Cold is the way to go! And I love the yogurt! Bet that’s an awesome flavor combo.

    As for the yard…its been raining for like 3 straight weekends! It’s like a jungle out there…


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