This simple, versatile rice pilaf is distinguished by its method of sautéing the grains briefly in oil or butter before adding liquid which adds flavour and helps the grains stay fluffy and separate. Rice pilaf is also a great jumping-off point for freestyle flavouring.
Yield: Serves 4 - 6
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 or 2 onions, chopped
1 cup any white rice
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup sliced dried apricots
2 cups water or chicken broth
a sprinkle or two sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté for a few minutes until they just begin to turn golden.
Add the rice and continue cooking and stirring until the grains are well coated with the butter.
Add the bay leaf, almonds and apricots. Pour in the water or broth and bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper. Stir briefly, cover and cook over a low heat until the rice is tender and has absorbed all the liquid, about 15 minutes.
Turn off the heat, and without removing the lid let the rice rest for 5 minutes or so before serving.
You may stir in a spoonful or so of any of your favourite herbs. Tarragon, thyme and rosemary are all excellent choices. You may use brown rice as well; just add another 1/2 cup of water and increase the simmering time to 45 minutes. For an extra special touch, try adding a pinch of saffron with the rice.
A bowl full of freshly made corn polenta is one of the world’s great grain dishes. Polenta is a traditional Italian pudding thickened with cornmeal. Freshly made, it has a soft, creamy, addictively delicious texture. It can also be served by cooling and hardening it, then slicing it and grilling or pan-searing it until it forms a beautiful crispy crust with a creamy interior.
Risotto is one of the world’s great rice dishes. It’s a traditional Italian dish that must be made from rice varieties with very high starch contents. Its distinctive cooking method gently coaxes the starches out of each rice grain, giving the dish its characteristic creaminess. An exercise in patience, but the results are more than worth the effort!