Sunday, December 12, 2010

Rice Pilaf with Saffron, Almond and Sweet Onion

I needed a fun new side dish.  It was getting a little boring.  I needed some COLOR.

A few months back I felt the need to beef up my spice library.  At Trader’s I found a cute little steal of a deal on Saffron.  Usually this stuff can be pretty pricy and you don’t use it every day, so I thought what a perfect little treat!   I try and buy
something new or different once a month and then try and cook with it. 

The reason Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world is not because it’s hard to come by, but because of the laborious process involved in harvesting and preparing it for storage.  The little red strands that look like long wiry whiskers are actually part of the styles coming from the crocus flower.  Spain is the number one producer of these flowers, India coming in second. 

So after spending some thoughtful time looking at these little guys, you can then use them in cooking.  But know hard labor went into each strand.  So no tossing the rest over your shoulder like salt.

I found a recipe for rice that included almonds and Saffron, which paired wonderfully with our bacon wrapped pork chops.  Just a little note of praise- just this past week we’ve been having some financial discussions about needing to buckle down a little more to make our budget- and lo and Angel of the Lord shown round about them and they were so’re afraid… no just kidding (no Charlie Brown here), but a little angel from Western did call us to say we were selected to receive 25 pounds of MEAT from a generous alumni donor from a high quality meat shop in Ohio?!  WHAT?!  Chris could hardly believe it!  Did they know who they had chosen?  Mr. Meat and Potatoes himself and his food blogging wife?!  Let this be a reminder that God is good, all the time, even in the kitchen!  So prepare yourself for some carnivorous entries coming to a browser near you!

The recipe is thanks to  I took the liberty of a few changes, so enjoy!

Rice Pilaf with Saffron, Almond and Sweet Onion  (feeds 4-6)

just less than 1/2 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads
2 tablespoons boiling-hot water
1/3 cup olive oil
½  cup slivered almonds
½  sweet onion, chopped
1 ½ cups white basmati rice
2 ¼ cups water
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper

First, chop your almonds.  Rough chop.  You can use slivered almonds if you’d like.

Then put the Saffron strands in 2 tbs boiling water and let stand

Heat your oil so it’s shimmering and begging to be used.  Toss the nuts in.  NOTE: it only takes a minute or so, and keep the heat to medium.  

My first batch was a bust.  Once again, this is not something to emulate.

“Chris, honestly, how do these taste?”  - Me
Chris: “I could deal with them.”  So nice of him, but we had plenty.  And no husband of mine will eat burnt almonds. 

Round 2.

Then spoon them out and set aside.  Put chopped onion into the SAME oil.  We’re gonna carry out the almond theme to the finish line.  

Get a nice brown on them, not forgetting to sweat them with a little salt.  Onions like it when you give them something to place with in the pot.

Then set half the onions aside.  

With the other half of onions remove from heat and add your rice, the water and the Saffron mixture.  Add salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer 18 min.

In the mean time, cook your meat.  I forgot to soak the toothpicks, and I was not about to burn anything else.  I thought this technique for wetting the toothpick was rather creative. :-)

Remove cover and serve with the onions and almonds on top or mixed in.  Pair with a delectable main course and some green!

1 comment:

  1. Love your commentary, and am learning new things (never heard that onions like to be combined with other things in the pan). Have a wonderful recipe for another grain recipe that uses saffron and some other spices. If I can remember where it is, I'll try to e mail it to you :)