Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Middle Eastern Basmati Rice

Midnight At the Oasis by Maria Muldaur
I've traveled quite a bit but never to the Middle East.  So in choosing a song for this week's recipe I grabbed at the first song that popped into my mind when I thought "Hmmmm.  A song that reminds me of the Middle East....."  It was 1974 and I was 14 years old growing up in a busy steel town in northwestern Pennsylvania.  And this song was the only information I had regarding what life must be like living as a nomad in the desert.  I could picture it - the beautiful oasis surrounded by tall palm trees.  It was all imagery overload for an impressionable young teen.  My mother pursed her lips whenever it came on the radio so that told me that "kick up a little dust" was probably more than shuffling along the sand dunes really quick.  Hahaha!  But this song formed my view of life in the Middle East until well into adulthood.  Too bad I hadn't known about the spices - that would have completed the picture so nicely!

While in Salt Lake City, Utah
recently, we joined my brother and sister-in-law
for lunch at a Middle Eastern restaurant.
I was worried if I'd find something
I could eat within the AIP guidelines.
Luckily there were a few options!
I looked longingly at the bread, though!
Gluten and grains!!!!
I miss you!!!

Sadly, I can't remember what I ordered.
I know it was good.
Apparently not memorable.
But as soon as my husband's plate
came out with the most beautiful
yellow rice on it, I had eyes 
for nothing else!


Naturally, I asked if I could have a taste.
Of course, being rice, he said I could
have as much as I wanted!
And it's a good thing because
I WANTED IT ALL!!

I wasn't sure if the yellow was 
from saffron or turmeric.
And I thought I tasted cinnamon as well.
I got the server chatting 
and she ended up giving me a 
brief rundown on the ingredients.
Onions, and garlic.  
The yellow was turmeric, not saffron.
She did not think there was
cinnamon in it.
I could see nuts as well.
I remember raisins but that might
just be me adding in what I
thought would have been in there.
All I know is that I needed to
figure out how to make this for myself!

I finally got around to doing
just that last week.
I'd done a little studying to see
which methodology I would use.
I settled on the same way I make 
Mexican Rice - where you toast
the rice before you add the liquid.
I also toasted the nuts and spices as well.
Giving heat to the spices releases
their flavor and aroma.

The ingredients in the pan look
absolutely fabulous right before
you add the liquid.
And the bouquet is phenomenal!
I know the addition of the raisins 
will alienate the raisin haters out there.
But, if you could just get that
hard and chewy idea out of your mind and
think of plumped up pockets of sweetness
that shoot squirts of honey-like juice
throughout your mouth
instead, maybe you'd give it a try?
If not, leave them out!
Or try pieces of dried apricot?
Whatever!
Just try this rice!
It's super tasty!!

Middle Eastern Basmati Rice
serves 8 - 10
Printable Recipe Card

2 cups Basmati rice
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 - 1 cup golden raisins and/or chopped dried apricots
3 cups water or chicken stock
kosher salt, to taste
2 green onions, thinly sliced

Place the rice in a mesh strainer and rinse well with cold water for about 2 minutes.  Set aside.

Warm the oil in a large skillet and add the diced onions.  Cook over medium high heat until they start to soften - about 5 minutes.  Add the rice, almonds, turmeric, and cinnamon and stir to coat with oil.  Add extra oil, if needed.  Toast the ingredients over medium high heat until it starts to get a little brown on the edges of the almonds.  The rice might start to pop.  Add the garlic and stir and heat for another minute.  Add the raisins and/or dried apricots.  Add the water and stir and bring to a boil.  Cover with a lid and reduce the heat to a simmer.  Cook on low for 12 minutes without removing the lid.  Don't be tempted to peek!  After the 12 minutes, remove the lid and fluff the rice.  Add salt to taste.  Garnish with the sliced green onions.  Enjoy!

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