Rice and Grains

Basmati Rice Pilaf with Currants and Toasted Almonds

SERVES 4 to 6 (VEG):  Toasting the rice gives our basmati pilaf nutty flavor and using
less water makes the rice pleasantly firm.

WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS In the Mediterranean, rice is rarely served plain — complementary flavorings are added to play off the other dishes on the table. We decided to create a basmati rice pilaf with flavor additions that would pair well with any number of entrées. Rinsing the rice before cooking removed excess starch and ensured fluffy, not clumpy, grains. We sautéed chopped onion to create an aromatic base, then we added the rice. Toasting the rice gave it a nutty, deep flavor, and stirring in garlic, turmeric, and cinnamon along with the rice allowed these big flavors to bloom and meld. Instead of following the traditional ratio of 1 cup of rice to 2 cups of water, we found that using a little less liquid made for a firmer texture that tasters liked. As soon as the grains absorbed the water, we removed the saucepan from the heat so the rice could finish steaming in the gentle residual heat. We stirred in currants for some bursts of sweetness before placing a dish towel under the lid to absorb excess moisture in the pan. Toasted almonds delivered some nice crunch to our jazzed-up pilaf. Long grain white, jasmine, or Texmati rice can be substituted for the basmati.

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped fine
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1½ cups basmati rice, rinsed
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2¼ cups water
  • ¼ cup currants
  • ¼ cup sliced almonds, toasted
  1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and ¼ teaspoon salt and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add rice, garlic, turmeric, and cinnamon and cook, stirring frequently, until grain edges begin to turn translucent, about 3 minutes.
  2. Stir in water and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer gently until rice is tender and water is absorbed, 16 to 18 minutes.
  3. Off heat, sprinkle currants over pilaf. Cover, laying clean dish towel underneath lid, and let pilaf sit for 10 minutes. Add almonds to pilaf and fluff gently with fork to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

VARIATION

Basmati Rice Pilaf with Peas, Scallions, and Lemon -VEG

Omit turmeric and cinnamon. Stir 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest and ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes into pot with rice. Substitute ½ cup thawed frozen peas for currants and 2 thinly sliced scallions and 1 tablespoon lemon juice for almonds.

Making Basmati Rice Pilaf

1- SAUTÉ ONIONS Heat oil in large saucepan and cook onions until softened to create aromatic base.

2- TOAST RICE AND SPICES Add rice, garlic, and spices and cook until rice begins to turn translucent. Stir in water, bring to simmer, cover, and cook.

3- STEAM OFF HEAT Remove pot from heat, sprinkle currants over pilaf, and cover, laying dish towel underneath lid. Let sit for 10 minutes.

4- FLUFF RICE Add almonds and fluff pilaf with fork to ensure light, fluffy texture.

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