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Pilaf Adapts Well To Many Favors

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 
Rice dish leads global food tour
East to west, pilaf adapts well to many flavors


By Mark Bittman
New York Times News Service

Pilaf, a rice dish that appears in cuisines from the Balkans to the Eastern Mediterranean to the Indian subcontinent, was one of my earliest "exotic" food triumphs. I cooked meat-laced pilafs, plain pilafs and pilafs with aromatic flavors. But eventually the dish was overshadowed by my discovery of risotto, which became overwhelmingly trendy for a while despite its relative difficulty.

A few months ago, looking to add a great, easy side dish to what I hoped would be an impressive meal, I rediscovered pilaf, and found that it compared favorably with risotto in every way: It is equally delicious, it is capable of producing scores of spin-offs and it can also serve as a starter, side dish or main course. Plus, it is far easier to make. The fact that it can be ignored once the initial cooking is completed means that the home cook is far more likely to make it than risotto, which requires constant stirring.

There are a few basic pilaf recipes, depending on which region you are talking about. The Indian variety, for example, uses several spices and often contains yogurt. The recipe here is Middle Eastern, and its preparation goes like this: Saute onions in butter or oil, saute rice in the soft onions, then add stock. Cover the pot and walk away.

Half an hour later, the pilaf is done, but you can keep it warm for another 30 minutes or so without diminishing its quality. Finishing the pilaf with chopped parsley (cilantro is good, too) and a sprinkling of lemon juice gives it color and sparkle.

Enriching the pot

That is pilaf at its simplest. I find the urge to add some tomatoes irresistible, and one appealing variation adds currants and pine nuts; another uses saffron. More imaginative additions are equally straightforward: You can add seafood, chickpeas, peas or almost any other vegetable, or even noodles, an unexpected but terrific twist. You can substitute bulgur, or cracked wheat, for the rice; it gives the dish a completely Middle Eastern feel. You could begin with ground meat, add spices of your choice and use other liquids in place of the stock.

But a note of caution: It is so easy to add things to pilaf that you might wind up with a muddy-tasting one-pot dish that isn't half bad but isn't exactly pilaf either. Better to keep the dish simple, with a couple of clear flavors that won't battle it out on your palate; additions should be in small enough quantities so that the pilaf remains a rice dish.

So, which rice is best? Pilafs made with short-grain rice, like arborio, have better texture, a certain al dente quality that is very attractive. But that quality is fleeting, and if you overcook the pilaf or let it rest too long the texture becomes gummy. Long-grain rice--and here basmati is the rice of choice--is more flexible in its cooking time, and the grains remain separate long after the cooking is done. In fact, if you use long-grain rice any leftover pilaf can be successfully reheated in a microwave or in a non-stick pan on the stovetop.

Variations on a theme

Here are some easy variations on basic pilaf.

- Seafood pilaf: Just before adding stock, stir in 1 cup shrimp or scallops, cut into 1/2-inch dice.

- Pilaf with currants and pine nuts: Along with the rice, add 1/4 cup currants (or raisins), 2 tablespoons pine nuts and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon.

- Pilaf with chickpeas or peas: Just before adding stock, stir in 1 cup cooked chickpeas or raw green peas (frozen are all right, and you need not defrost).

- Golden pilaf: Before adding stock, warm it with a large pinch (1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon) saffron threads.

- Bulgur pilaf: Substitute coarse-grained bulgur for rice and cook only 10 minutes after stock heats to a boil.

Basic pilaf
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes
Yield: 4 side-dish or 2 main-course servings

2 tablespoons butter or extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
Salt, freshly ground pepper
1 cup white rice
1 cup chopped tomatoes, optional, see note
1 to 1 1/2 cups chicken, beef or vegetable broth
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1. Put butter or oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Add onion and a large pinch of salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until onion turns translucent, about 7 minutes. Add rice. Cook, stirring occasionally, until rice is glossy and begins to brown, 3-5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Add tomatoes, if desired; stir 1 minute. Add broth (use the smaller amount if you are using tomatoes); stir. Heat mixture to a boil, cook 1 minute. Reduce heat to low; cover. Cook until most of the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Turn heat to absolute minimum; cook 15 minutes. (If stove is electric, turn heat off and let pan sit on burner 15 minutes.) Stir in parsley and lemon juice.

Note: Canned tomatoes can be used; use the juice.

Nutrition information per serving (based on 4, with tomatoes):

270 calories, 23% of calories from fat, 7 g fat, 3.8 g saturated fat, 16 mg cholesterol, 46 g carbohydrates, 6 g protein, 265 mg sodium, 1.7 g fiber

Pilaf with meat
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes
Yield: 4 side-dish or 2 main-course servings

2 tablespoons butter or extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 pound ground meat (lamb, pork, turkey, chicken, beef or combination)
Salt, freshly ground pepper
1 medium onion, chopped
3 bay leaves
1 cup white rice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups chicken, beef or vegetable broth
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Add meat and a large pinch of salt; cook, stirring occasionally to break up lumps, until meat loses its color, about 5 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon.

2. Add remaining butter, onion and a little more salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until onion turns translucent, about 7 minutes. Add bay leaves and rice; cook, stirring occasionally, until rice is glossy and begins to brown, 3-5 minutes. Return meat to pan, stir mixture and sprinkle with salt, pepper and cinnamon.

3. Stir in broth. Raise heat; heat mixture to a boil. Cook 1 minute; reduce heat to low. Cover; cook until most of the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Turn heat to absolute minimum; cook another 15 minutes. (If you have an electric stove, turn heat off; let pan sit on burner for same amount of time.) Stir in parsley and lemon juice.

Nutrition information per serving (based on 4, with beef):

365 calories, 34% of calories from fat, 14 g fat, 7 g saturated fat, 50 mg cholesterol, 44 g carbohydrates, 15 g protein, 385 mg sodium, 1.3 g fiber


Copyright © 2002, Chicago Tribune
When I get a little money, I buy books. And if there is any left over, I buy food.

- Desiderius Erasmus
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When I get a little money, I buy books. And if there is any left over, I buy food.

- Desiderius Erasmus
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post #2 of 5

pilaf my love

Ah pilaf!

My version

I use 2 cups of water for 1 cup of rice.
So for every cup of rice I substitute the I cup of water with fresh orange juice!
Heat 2 tbsp of butter in a pan and put the rice, stirr the rice for 5 min and then add the liquids. The orange juice first
When its cooked you may add resins and pine nuts

Easy and simple and aromatic

:lips:
"Muabet de Turko,kama de Grego i komer de Djidio", old sefardic proverb ( Three things worth in life: the gossip of the Turk , the bed of the Greek and the food of the Jew)
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"Muabet de Turko,kama de Grego i komer de Djidio", old sefardic proverb ( Three things worth in life: the gossip of the Turk , the bed of the Greek and the food of the Jew)
Reply
post #3 of 5
'Pilaf' or 'Pilau' eventually became known in the south, mainly through Charleston,SC, because it was a major seaport, bringing spices from the far East. The name itself eventually got 'southernized' to 'perlow', and perlow has as many variations as the original pilafs!

My fav is saute the onions in butter/oil, add the rice, and add chunks of smoked sausage and browned chicken pieces (wings and thighs), and then add broth/water, and continue cooking. Charleston also has a shrimp perlow, but the shrimp aren't added in til the end.
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post #4 of 5
Funny you should post this thread...I am giving another dinner party in March and the main dish is pork medallions. Looking for a side dish to compliment, I naturally turned to this websight for inspiration...while figuring I would probably just do pilaf. Wow...inspiration AND pilaf! I was thinking a mushroom pilaf, but I am open to suggestions. (or a new mushroom pilaf recipe)

Thank you!

Celeste
post #5 of 5
I use my recipe especially for pork medallions :)
"Muabet de Turko,kama de Grego i komer de Djidio", old sefardic proverb ( Three things worth in life: the gossip of the Turk , the bed of the Greek and the food of the Jew)
Reply
"Muabet de Turko,kama de Grego i komer de Djidio", old sefardic proverb ( Three things worth in life: the gossip of the Turk , the bed of the Greek and the food of the Jew)
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