Rice Pilaf with Dried Fruits and Peas

Rice Pilaf with Dried Fruits and Peas

This is a straightforward rice pilaf typical of Turkish and Persian cuisines (but made more simply than in Persian cooking). It is, however, very colorful with bits of vegetable and fruits. It goes well with grilled or stewed meat or chicken dishes. Persian “barberries,” the classic fruit for pilafs, are hard to find because of trade restrictions with Iran. Dried cranberries are now a typical American substitute, or chopped dried apricots can be used. The recipe serves six generously.

2 cups basmati or long grain rice
1-1/2 teaspoons salt        
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 cups water
Dish: Marmalade Pottery, Athens GA
1 medium small onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons sweet red pepper, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed and minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup frozen peas, still frozen
1/3 cup yellow raisins
1/3 cup dried apricots (‘Turkish’ work well), coarsely chopped (or use dried cranberries)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill or mint
Additional dill or mint for garnish

Rinse the rice well and drain. Put rinsed rice, water, salt, and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot and bring to a boil. Cover tightly, lower the heat to very low, and cook (without opening the lid) for 20 minutes. Do not open the pan, but let the rice sit 10 minutes more with heat off. (Alternatively, the rice can be cooked with the same ingredients in an electric rice cooker, not opening the lid until at least 10 minutes after the light goes off.)

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil and fry the onion until translucent and just beginning to turn golden. Add the minced red pepper and garlic and stir and fry for about 1 minute. Then add frozen peas and continue to heat, stirring frequently. As soon as the mixture is hot, add the raisins and the apricots or cranberries and let heat briefly. Remove from heat and stir in the black pepper, cinnamon, and dill or mint.
Fluff the rice with a two-pronged fork. Taste the rice and if not salted enough, add a little salt to the rice in the next step. In a large bowl toss the rice and the fruit-vegetable mixture together gently, being careful not to break the rice grains. Return the rice to the cooking pot (or rice cooker) for storage.

The rice can be served soon, or stored and later re-warmed in a microwave oven. Serve stacked up on a platter or dish rather than in a bowl. Garnish with a little fresh dill or mint, whichever was used in the rice.

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