Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Waldorf Rice Pilaf

Take A Chance On Me by ABBA
Amid all the craziness which has taken me away from home for the past month, I'm fortunate to have some awesome friends that keep me centered.  My friend had me over to her place yesterday so we could do some cooking together.  Before we got started she asked if we could listen to some  music.  Of course!!  Then she kind of timidly says she has been on an ABBA kick lately and what did I think of that.  I LOVE ABBA!  And I share this happy news with her!  And we, once again, get confirmation as to why we're friends!  Shortly after, my sister-in-law shows up and she's singing and humming along, too!  I'm thinking we're a very clever group of women and I'm choosing this song of theirs because we have been talking about taking chances on some things.  Read on -

Recently my friend and I met for lunch at our favorite 
Thai restaurant as I was buzzing up 
through her town on my way
back to my home in Washington.

As we caught up on the latest,
we got talking about health issues and
she informed me that she was trying to
start eating a vegetarian diet.
I, too, had considered doing this
 off and on over the years.
The more we talked the more it 
felt like this was something
 I could and should try.

To a point.

I can't abide the idea that I would never ever have
shrimp again in my life.
That would not do.
But I remember listening to a TED talk 
by Graham Hill about being a 
weekday vegetarian.
I watched it again and I
decided that I would start weaning 
myself off of so much meat.

I think I made it 3 days the first week.
Mostly because meat is such an
ingrained part of my diet.
I would be choosing it because
it was the knee jerk reaction
for me to do so.
And suddenly, with my mouth full of
a ham and cheese sub or a cheeseburger,
I'd remember my decision
and my shoulders would drop
and I'd plant my palm on my forehead.
Well - tomorrow I'll do better!
Choosing to go meatless
takes a very conscious effort
and planning ahead.
I'm up to about 4 days a week 
of being a vegetarian.
Little steps.

When I was back down by my friend's
again, I suggested we get 
together and make a vegetarian recipe.
Something that we could perhaps
use on the Thanksgiving table.
I set about thinking up a recipe
and used the traditional feast
dishes for inspiration.

I love Waldorf Salad.
But I wanted something more
savory than sweet.
So I quite simply
took the ingredients and added
some onions and fresh rosemary
and turned it into a rice pilaf dish.
And we all agreed it was quite good!
This is a dish I could serve with meat
for those who wanted it
and be completely happy with this 
as a main dish for myself.
The quest is on, folks!

Waldorf Rice Pilaf
serves 4 - 6

1 cup rice
2 apples, we preferred the honey crisp
1/4 onion, diced
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 c. chopped walnuts
1/2 c. golden raisins
1 c. apple cider
1 orange
1 stem rosemary, leaves stripped and finely chopped
1 Tablespoon of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the rice - you can use my instructions here using 1 1/2 cups of water.  

Heat the apple cider in a saucepan and remove from heat.  Add the raisins and let them soak for 15 minutes to plump them up. 

Chop the apples, leaving the skins on.  I cut them in a large dice so the warmth of the dish doesn't cook them.  I want that crunch of the apple.  To keep them from going brown, I squeeze the juice of an orange over them and toss.  Set aside.

Remove the raisins from the cider and set aside.  Place the saucepan with the remaining cider back over high heat and boil to reduce it to about 1/4 cup.  You can also add the extra orange juice from the apples, if you like.

While the cider is reducing, toast the walnut pieces in a skillet over medium heat.  When done, remove to a plate, wipe out the skillet and add the olive oil and heat.  Add the onion and celery and cook for about 5 minutes over medium heat.  We're just looking to soften them up a bit.  

When the rice is done, toss it in the skillet with the onions and celery and toss to coat.  Add the toasted walnuts.  Add half of the finely chopped fresh rosemary and the plumped raisins.  Add the reduced cider.  Heat until just warm, if necessary.  Before serving, add the chopped apples and toss.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Garnish with the remainder of the fresh rosemary.  And I'll tell you, we all felt the fresh rosemary was what made the dish special!