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Brown Rice Pilaf with Indian Spices, Caramelized Onions & Cashews

Posted Sep 09 2009 7:31am

Last night's dinner serves as a perfect illustration of my trick for overcoming the occasional. yet acute, case of dinner-prep inertia: focus on the sides. When unexcited and underwhelmed by the prospect of chicken breasts, pork chops, ground beef and tofu, I concentrate on accompaniments and let the rest follow. It's liberating and satisfying, and solves the problem most every time.

So I concentrated on carbohydrates, my preferred food group. In a matter of moments, I had it: rice. I want rice. And spice. Perhaps a pilaf. That's it.

I remember pilaf appearing at the dinner table throughout my childhood, in various guises. It was always a hit, and good for us, too. You can vary the rice (basmati, jasmine, brown), vary the seasonings (spies, fresh herbs, aromatics), add embellishments (toasted nuts, dried fruit, roasted seeds), and even transform it from side to main with the addition of leftover chicken, beef, pork, and tofu, or a handful of cooked beans.

I settled on long grain brown rice (I'm particularly fond of Texmati brown rice; Texmati is aTexas-grown basmati rice) with a flurry of Indian spices, finished with some caramelized onions, currants, and cashews. It was simple and wonderful. Chickpeas or cooked chicken will be a nice addition when I make this again, but last night sauteed chicken breasts seemed like a good fit. Now I must sign off because the leftovers are in the refrigerator, and I'm growing hungrier with each word I type.

Brown Rice Pilaf with Indian Spices & Cashews


If you think you don;t like brown rice, my guess is that you haven't tried long-grain brown rice. It's light and fluffy, takes less time to cook than the short-grain varieties, and, because it is relatively pale in color once cooked, you can serve it to small children and significant others without notice or complaint. The rice here turns a brilliant shade of yellow thanks to the addition of the turmeric.

2 tablespoons canola oil, divided use
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 and 1/4 cups brown long grain rice
2 and 1/2 cups vegetable broth or water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
3/4 cup cashews
1/2 cup currants or chopped raisins

Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in a medium saucepan or covered skillet. Add the spices and sauté for 15-30 seconds until fragrant. Add the rice; cook and stir 1 minute. Stir in the water or broth, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until liquid is completely absorbed, about 35-40 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a large skillet. Add the onions and sauté for 10-12 minutes until browned.

Remove covered pan with the rice from heat and let sit 10 minutes; uncover and fluff with fork. Transfer to a large bowl, add the currants, cashews and onions and toss to combine. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Makes 6 servings.
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