Many cultures serve a “green” rice pilaf – this is a Persian version. You can try substituting spinach for the parsley without altering the flavor substantially. Also try increasing the amount of herbs a bit – if you like your rice really “green”. The saffron is not essential – if you don’t have it on hand – though it adds a lovely flavor so characteristic of Persian cuisine. The dried lime can be found at any Persian or Middle Eastern grocery (try Rose International Market in Saratoga or Mountain View). You can substitute fresh lemon for the dried lime – cook the rice with 2 tsp lemon zest, and squeeze 2 Tbsp lemon juice on the rice just before serving. I use less water than is called for in the original dish to create a drier, less sticky grain.
Though it takes some time to slowly incorporate the stock into risotto, it’s not difficult, and the reward is Italian comfort food at its very best. Risotto works well with most any veggies you have in the fridge or pantry. Try frozen peas, roasted winter squash, chopped greens, even basic staples likely to be found languishing in the crisper, like celery. Experiment by adding to this simple recipe or substituting for the roasted peppers or tomatoes. You can make a lovely, brightly colored beet risotto by adding up to a pound of peeled, finely diced raw beets to the onions (add some chopped celery too) and omitting the peppers. At the end of cooking, stir in a tablespoon or two of fresh lemon juice with the butter. Cheese is optional for this variation. You can omit the wine, but it does add lots of flavor and the alcohol burns off in cooking.
This salad is lovely with the addition of apples or fresh stone fruits, such as peaches or nectarines. Cut into 1/2 inch chunks, and be sure to catch the sweet juice drippings in the bowl. You can also substitute other grain products for the quinoa, such as rice (pictured in the photo) farro, wheat berries or couscous (follow specific cooking directions on the package for each product).
- 1 cup dry quinoa
- 2 cups water
- olive oil
- 1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
- 2 large leaves (or 4 medium) of kale
- 1 cup chopped herbs (such as parsley, arugula, cilantro, or a mix)
- 1/3 cup shelled pistachios, roughly chopped
- 1/3 cup dried cherries, roughly chopped
- 2-3 green onions, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, pressed
- zest and juice of one small lemon
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- freshly cracked pepper
- Put quinoa, water and a pinch of salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cover. Cook for about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.
- Heat a skillet over medium and add a small amount of olive oil to coat the pan. Add red onion and garlic and cook until onion is starting to brown and is very soft. Place into a serving bowl.
- Remove stems from kale and finely chop leaves – you should have about 2 cups kale. Place in a serving bowl. Add the cooked onions, herbs, nuts, fruit and green onions.
- Add quinoa to the kale mixture. Toss together garlic, lemon juice and zest, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside for 10 minutes so flavors can meld. Add to salad mixture and toss ingredients to combine.
If you have leftover rice (white or brown) this is a tasty way to finish it off. Any zucchini (or other summer squash) languishing in the fridge, left from last week or overflow from a backyard garden will be the perfect addition. The basic ingredients listed are a starting point, but you could easily add (or substitute) other vegetables you have on hand such as leafy greens, green beans, potatoes and other types of peppers.