One thing that constantly stumps me whenever I cook a dish is thinking of other dishes to accompany the main course. You can only serve mashed potatoes or mashed cauliflower so many times before you guests think you’re not a really creative cook. You can have a stupendously delicious main course but without that side dish of carbohydrates that will serve as your filler, the whole meal can fall flat instantly. These side dishes serve to complement the main dish, mellow out some of the flavors while enhancing others, and as I’ve said before, it helps fill up your guests, sating them during the meal.
One dish that I have started to include in my arsenal is rice. No, not just the steamed rice that is commonly eaten in majority of countries on the planet (in fact, rice is the most widely eaten staple on earth), but a pilaf. A rice pilaf is a common accompaniment to dishes and you’ve surely been served a pilaf when you ate at a restaurant. A pilaf is easy to make and quite yummy because of the mélange of spices used in making the dish.
A pilaf is not hard to do. This recipe for Saffron Rice Pilaf is from simplyrecipes.com. It is easy to make and the resulting product is really delicious.
Saffron Rice Pilaf Recipe
- Prep time: 10 minutes
- Cook time: 40 minutes
- 1/2 teaspoon of saffron threads
- 2 Tbsp ghee or clarified butter*
- 4 cardamom pods
- 1 small (2-inch) cinnamon stick
- 4 whole cloves
- 10 black peppercorns
- 2 1/2 cups long grain white rice**
- 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
- Zest of one orange (about 1 1/2 teaspoons, packed)
- 2 Tbsp pistachios
- 2 Tbsp blanched slivered or sliced almonds
- 2 Tbsp golden raisins
*To make clarified butter for this recipe, melt 4 tablespoons of sliced unsalted butter in a small saucepan on medium heat. Let the butter foam up, which releases its moisture. When the foaming subsides a bit, you may see solids in the melted butter beginning to brown, remove from heat and pour through a fine mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth or a paper towel (to strain out the solids) into a bowl.
**Sometimes depending on how the rice was packed, it will need to be rinsed before cooking, especially rice that you buy in large bulk bags. If there is powdery stuff around the rice, you’ll need to rinse it. If this is the case with your rice, rinse it until the rinsing water runs clear, and spread the rice out to dry on a large baking sheet. Make sure it is completely dry before frying.
1 Heat a large kettle of water (a little more than a quart) to boiling. Place saffron in a small bowl, cover with 2 Tbsp of the hot water, set aside.
2 Heat 2 tablespoons of ghee or clarified butter in a 2 quart, thick-bottomed saucepan on medium-high heat until hot. Add the cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, cloves, and peppercorns to the pan. Gently fry the spices for 2 minutes.
3 Add rice, and fry for 3 more minutes, stirring after a minute or two. Some of the rice should brown at the bottom of the pan. Remove the pan from heat. Add four cups of the hot water you prepared in step one to the pan, taking care to add slowly as it may bubble up and splatter. Add two teaspoons of salt. Add the saffron threads and their soaking liquid. Add the orange zest. Stir, bring quickly to a boil, reduce the heat to the lowest setting. Cover tightly and cook for 20 minutes.
4 While the rice is cooking, in a small frying pan, heat on medium high heat and add the pistachios and slivered almonds. Toast until lightly browned, about 3 or 4 minutes, remove from pan into a bowl.
5 After 20 minutes, remove the lid from the rice, pick out the spices that have floated to the top of the rice – the cinnamon stick, any whole cardamom pods, black peppercorns or cloves. Scatter golden raisins over the top of the rice. Replace the lid and cook for 5 more minutes.
6 Stir in the toasted almonds and pistachios.
Yield: Serves 5 to 6.