Armenian Cheesy Rice

So I guess everyone is buying or cooking up some game munchies and getting ready to sit back and watch the Superbowl, host or hang out with friends. I am doing no such thing. That’s right. Gasp! I don’t watch the Superbowl or much of any sports for that matter and have right about now possibly offended or shocked the very few people who actually read my blog. I do watch a bit of the World Cup when that happens and if I happen to chance upon a tennis match but otherwise no sports. I did not grow up watching football or baseball so I cannot relate to people when they excitedly discuss teams and scores and such. If I am ever invited to what would be my second Superbowl party I will be the person cooking, baking, making sure that everyone has enough food and ultimately, stuffing my face.

Speaking of stuffing faces, you are going to want to do just that with this Armenian cheesy rice dish. I’m Armenian and when I came across this recipe on the Washington Post food section-which my wonderful co-worker provides me with every Wednesday-it did not look familiar and I was wondering how on earth it was an Armenian dish. Nevertheless, it looked so good on paper that I wanted to try it out in real life. It was delicious! I gave the recipe to an Armenian friend of mine who also didn’t think that it was an Armenian dish or that it existed and she made it and loved it. I adore rice so much I could eat it plain but this has spinach, dill, lemon, sumac, halloumi cheese and nuts! Let’s get cooking 🙂

Cheesy rice ingredients
You will need 3 cups of vegetable broth (I used chicken as that is what I had on hand), 1 pound and 5 ounces fresh spinach (shredded–I used a small container), 8 ounces halloumi cheese (shredded), 1/3 cup of chopped parsley, 1 tbsp grated lemon zest and 2 tbsp lemon juice, 1 large yellow onion, 3 cloves of garlic, 1 tbsp each of pine nuts and almonds (toasted), 2 cups of long grain white rice (rinsed several times and drained), 2 tsp of dried dill, and 2 tsp of ground sumac.
halloumi and parsley
It always helps if you wash and prepare your ingredients beforehand so you don’t have to frantically chop something and possibly your finger at the last moment! or burn the onions and garlic while you are happily chopping away. Here is some chopped parsley and shredded halloumi.
Shredded spinach
And here is the shredded spinach.
Onions and garlic
Chop the onion and garlic. Put 2 tbsp of oil in a skillet and add the onion and garlic.
Sauteed onions
Cook and stir for 8 to 10 minutes until translucent and almost crispy but not crispy. and smells heavenly.
rice and dill
Wash and drain your rice and add the drained rice and dill to the onions and garlic. I love dill. It makes me happy 🙂
Add the broth, the lemon zest and juice, and the salt. I love it when a recipe calls for lemon zest and juice 🙂 It smells wonderful and is calming! Stir and bring to a boil then lower the heat.
spinach added
If you need to work in batches you can do that so go ahead and add some spinach and fold it in to let it wilt a bit and then add more until you are all out of spinach. Cover your skillet with a dish towel (I used a paper towel) and put the lid on. Cook without opening the lid for 20 minutes or until rice is tender.
toasted nuts
I didn’t measure as you can see. I love nuts in rice, salad, you name it! Toast them nuts as it always tastes better that way.
rice and spinach
Fluff the rice with a fork. I could just sit and eat this whole freaking skillet of rice but wait! We have a cheesy part coming up. You don’t want to miss this.
halloumi and parsley added
Add the halloumi, parsley and pepper and add more salt if needed. Give it a good stir. Cover with the lid only and let it rest so that the cheese melts. Did you hear that–the cheese will melt in the beautiful rice and life will become even more wonderful and happy 🙂 I can see elves doing a country line dance and hippos playing backgammon.
cheesy rice
When you take a bite, you will get a cheesy taste of ricey goodness. Who wouldn’t want that! 
Armenian cheesy rice
Sprinkle some sumac if you like and some nuts and eat your way through this. Obviously, I always have sumac in my pantry 🙂 You can find this spice at a Middle Eastern store or on Amazon. If you feel the need, you could bake some salmon or chicken to go with it but this is a dish in itself. Make this now and bring some cheesy rice in your life 🙂

Recipe taken from Washington Post

Tested size: 6-8 servings

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 cups long-grain white rice, rinsed in several changes of water and drained
  • 2 teaspoons dried dill
  • 3 cups no-salt-added vegetable broth, homemade or store-bought (see related recipe)
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest and 2 tablespoons juice (from 1 lemon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or more as needed
  • 1 pound 5 ounces fresh spinach, shredded
  • 8 ounces halloumi cheese, shredded (may substitute queso blanco or part-skim mozzarella cheese)
  • 1/3 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more as needed
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted (see NOTE)
  • 1 tablespoon slivered almonds, toasted (see NOTE)
  • 2 teaspoons ground sumac, for garnish (optional)

Pour the oil into a large saucepan or deep, straight-sided saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic; cook, stirring frequently, until browned, verging on crispy, 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the drained rice and dill, stirring to coat evenly. Add the broth, the lemon zest and juice, and the salt. Stir well, bring to a boil, then turn the heat down and add the spinach, working in batches if necessary: Fold some in and let it wilt, then fold in more.

Cover the pan with a clean dish towel and fit the lid on top. Cook undisturbed for 20 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender.

Uncover, fluff the rice with a fork or wooden spoon and stir in the cheese, parsley and pepper. Taste, and add more salt and pepper as needed. Re-cover with the lid (no dish towel this time) and let the rice rest for a few minutes, so the cheese will melt.

Spoon the rice onto a platter; strew the pine nuts and almonds on top. Sprinkle with the sumac, if desired.

NOTE: Toast the pine nuts and almonds in a small pan over medium heat until lightly browned, shaking the pan frequently to avoid scorching, then transfer immediately to a plate to cool.


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