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Greek Rice

I have been working at the same place for 7 years now.  When we go out for lunch from work which is very rare, it is to one of the few restaurants near my work.  One of them is a diner where, the only thing I can get to eat is a 'Greek Salad'. All their lunch menu either has meat in it or uses a non vegetarian broth or has eggs. In these past 7 years, I have gone to that diner at least once a year and I have eaten the same greek salad every time.
Last time when I went to that place, there was something different about the salad. They had rice stuffed grape leaf dumplings added as a garnish to the salad. When I inquired about the ingredients of that, the waitress said it is greek rice and it has no animal related stuff in it. I liked the rice very much since it had a very good tang. I just used that as an inspiration and made up this rice. I have used olives, onions in it mainly because greek salad has onions, cucumbers, tomatoes and lots and lots of lettuce. You could garnish this with crumbled feta cheese and serve.

Ingredients:
Long grain rice - 1 1/2 cups ( I used basmati)
Olive Oil - 3 TBSP
Garlic - 2 pods sliced thin
Red Onion - 2 medium sliced into 1/2" strips
Black Olives - cut into halves about 1/2 cup or per taste
Thyme - fresh 2 TBSP or dry 2 tsp
Salt - to taste
Black pepper - cracked about 1 TBSP or per taste
Tomato paste - 2 TBSP (See Notes)
Vegetable Broth - 3 Cups or water (See Notes)
Lemon Juice - 3 TBSP

Method:
In a large skillet, toast the rice till pale. Set aside. In the same skillet, heat olive oil. When hot, add garlic, onions and sprinkle with some salt (go easy on salt since olives are salty) and let them wilt. When Onions are cooked, add crushed black pepper, thyme (rub it between your palms if you are using dried herb) and stir. Add the vegetable broth and let it come to a boil.
Meanwhile, rinse the rice and drain. Add the lemon juice to the boiling broth and add rice. Stir and let it boil for a few minutes. Now, add the tomato paste, olives and mix well. Close the lid and let it cook on very low heat. Check for the seasonings and adjust if necessary. When done, fluff with a fork and serve warm or at room temperature.

Notes:
You could use water to cook the rice, but will not be as flavorful. You can use fresh tomatoes about 2 medium chopped fine in place of tomato paste. Add it after the onions are cooked. You could add some baby spinach towards the end. When rice is completely cooked, add the baby spinach, mix and turn off the heat.
Heat of this rice was mild and perfect for the kids. If you want more heat, use some hot pepper sauce or red pepper flakes along with black pepper.
Enjoy.

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