By Freya Bellin
This pilaf proves that a simple grain like rice can be transformed into something pretty complex, without too much work on your part. The Spanish flavors of this dish come through strongly—especially the smoky pimentón, which is a great contrast to the overall sweetness of the dish. I personally found myself digging through the bowl for even more apricots, so you may want to chop up and toss in a few more than the recipe suggests. You could experiment with other dried fruits here as well, like golden raisins.
While most of the cook-time in this recipe is hands-off, brown rice can require some attention. I added more water a few times throughout the simmering process, as the pot was starting to dry out, but the rice was still crunchy. The couscous variation would certainly be useful if you’re in a time-bind or if you want to multi-task. The wonderful thing about a recipe like this is that, thanks to the protein from almonds and chickpeas, it can be a meal in and of itself. I served it with beets to squeeze in some vegetables, but it’s completely filling and satisfying on its own. Plus, any recipe that calls for ½ cup of wine leaves you with most of a bottle left for drinking, which is never a bad thing. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.
Rice Pilaf with Apricots, Chickpeas, and Almonds
Makes: 4 servings
Time: About 1 hour, largely unattended
Both the main recipe and the super-quick couscous variation benefit from resting off the heat after cooking, so this pilaf is easy to time with a slew of other dishes for buffets or holidays. The recipe is also a good place to use millet: Its corn-like flavor and grainy texture team nicely with the apricots and orange, and it cooks a little faster than brown rice.
1⁄2 cup slivered or chopped almonds
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for serving
1 small red onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon pimentón (smoked paprika)
Salt and black pepper
1 cup brown basmati rice
Juice of 1 orange
1⁄2 cup white wine
1⁄2 cup chopped dried apricots, or 1 cup chopped fresh apricots
1 cup cooked or canned chickpeas, drained
1⁄2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1. Put the almonds in a large, deep skillet or medium saucepan over medium heat. Toast, shaking the pan and stirring often, until they begin to brown but don’t burn, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the almonds from the pan.
2. Add 2 tablespoons oil to the skillet. When it’s hot, add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring, until the onion softens and begins to turn golden, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the paprika, salt, and pepper and continue to stir until fragrant, just another minute.
3. Add the rice and stir until it’s glossy, completely coated with oil, and starting to color lightly, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the orange juice, wine, and 11⁄2 cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat so it bubbles steadily. Cover the pan and cook until almost all of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is just tender, 40 to 50 minutes.
4. Stir in the apricots, chickpeas, and parsley; cover and remove from the heat. Let the pilaf rest for at least 10 minutes or up to 30 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Add the reserved almonds and a little more oil if you like, and fluff with a fork. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Couscous Pilaf with Apricots, Chickpeas, and Almonds. Ready in half the time. Substitute whole wheat couscous for the rice and reduce the amount of water to 1 cup. In Step 3, after stirring the couscous in the oil, add everything but the parsley to the skillet. Bring the mixture a boil, then cover and remove it from the heat. Let steep until the water is absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes. Add the almonds and parsley, fluff with a fork, and serve.
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