Rice A Versatile Side Dish
For instance, in the following recipe for “Persian Rice Pilaf with Saffron and Pomegranates” from Andreas Viestad’s “Where Flavor Was Born” (Chronicle Books), the rice is first cooked, then fried to get a nice crust. What’s more, this dish can be enjoyed with grilled sirloin or a poultry dish, and for those inclined to expand the recipe, can even make a fulfilling entree on its own.
Persian Rice Pilaf with Saffron and Pomegranates Serves 6 to 8 as a side dish
11/2 cups basmati rice
2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1/4 cup coarsely chopped apricots
1 1/2-inch piece of cinnamon stick
2 to 3 cardamom pods, lightly
4 cups boiling water
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
1 teaspoon powdered turmeric
1 teaspoon paprika (optional)
1/4 cup finely chopped spring onions
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
A small pinch of saffron threads
1. Soak the rice in water, either placing it in a small-holed colander under running water or placing it in a pot full of water, stirring well and changing the water two or three times. This removes the surface starch and prevents it from sticking and clumping.
2. In a wide nonstick pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Saute the onion and apricots for 4 to 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a bowl.
3. Add the rice, cinnamon and cardamom to the oil remaining in the pot and cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the boiling water and let the rice boil uncovered over medium-low heat for 20 minutes, or until almost cooked through.
4. Drain the rice, reserving the cooking water, and return the rice to the pot. Turn up the heat to high and add the butter, yogurt, saffron, turmeric, paprika (if desired), and the onion and apricot mixture. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring to prevent scorching.
5. Add the reserved water (and a little more, if needed) little by little and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the rice is cooked through.
6. Remove the rice from the heat and season with salt to taste. Stir in the spring onions and pomegranate seeds, and serve.