This is my variation on lapas (pronounced lah-pàhs) the traditional Greek comfort food our mothers cooked for us whenever we were sick with a stomach or tummy ache. It is a soft risotto, that is best eaten as soon as it is taken off the heat.
But I refrigerate the leftovers and reheat in the microwave, spaying with some water, since I never serve it plain. I use it much like polenta as the base for many different strongly-flavored toppings, like the Roasted Quince and Carrots –with or without eggs or chicken– or with Baked Scallion Meatballs and Avgolemono Sauce. But it is wonderful simply mixed with just crumbled feta or any other cheese.
Traditionally Lapas has no herbs or other flavorings, but my Georgian friends, who also prepared a similar dish, added a few bay leaves which made it wonderfully aromatic. I took their idea and now bay leaves have become part of my rice porridge.
Serve immediately, drizzled with additional fruity olive oil and a squeeze of lemon, sprinkling with finishing salt and freshly ground black pepper, or Maras pepper flakes, if you like.
1 ½ cups medium grain rice (any kind is fine, does not have to be Arborio)
4-5 ½ cups water, as needed
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/3 cup olive oil
3-4 Mediterranean bay leaves
Fruity olive oil for drizzling
Fresh lemon juice
Freshly ground pepper or Maras pepper fakes
1 ½ cup crumbled feta, or more to taste (optional)
In a saucepan, over medium-high heat, add the rice, 4 cups water, salt, olive oil and the bay leaves. Stir occasionally until it starts to boil, then lower the heat and simmer, stirring often and adding more water, as needed, until the rice is cooked. It will take about 15-20 minutes, depending on the type of rice you used and how soft you like your like it.
In traditional lapas the rice is not al dente but soft, that is why I call it porridge.
Be very careful and do not leave the rice to cook unattended because, like milk, it boils over the pot and also sticks to the bottom.
Remove from the heat with plenty of liquid, and continue stirring for 1-2 minutes; the rice will thicken as it starts to cool.
Serve immediately with one of the toppings, or with crumbled feta, drizzled with fruity olive oil, fresh lemon juice, and sprinkled with finishing salt and pepper.