Recipe: Simple Rice Pilaf

Pilaf makes a quick and elegant side dish to almost any meal. You can buy pilaf mixes at the grocery store, but we think it's just as easy--or easier--to make it yourself and then fancy it up with whatever veggies and seasonings you like!

The basic method for pilaf is not all that different from making regular rice. The main difference is that when you make pilaf, you saute the grains of rice before adding the liquid. This breaks down the starch on the outside of the grains and gives the cooked rice a deep toasted flavor.

Basic Recipe for Rice Pilaf
Makes 2-3 servings

2-4 tablespoons olive oil or butter
1 cup rice
2 cups water or broth
2 teaspoons salt

1. Measure out your rice and water. For a pilaf, the ratio of rice to water is 1:2. This means that for every cup of rice, measure out two cups of water. We use medium- or long-grained rice. Instead of water, you can also use vegetable broth or chicken broth for extra flavor.

2. Heat two to four tablespoons of olive oil or butter (or a combo!) in a medium saucepan. Be sure to use a saucepan that has a lid.

If you want to include any veggies, add them now and saute until they're sweated (just starting to release moisture and cook). We most often use mushrooms and onions if we want a subtle flavor, adding in red peppers if we want a little more pizzazz. Cut them to a smallish dice so the veggies aren't too much larger than the grains of rice.

3. Toast the rice. Add the the rice to the pot and stir until all the grains are evenly coated with fat. Continue cooking and stirring the rice for another minute or two until the corners of the grains are translucent. The rice should also smell pleasantly toasted!

4. Pour in the water or broth, add two teaspoons of salt, and bring to a boil.

You can also add other spices at this point. Bay leaf, thyme, and even cinnamon all add fantastic taste and aroma to the pilaf.

5. Reduce to a simmer and cover the pan.

6. Cook for 15-18 minutes until all the liquid has been absorbed. You want to keep as much of the liquid from evaporating as possible, so avoid taking the lid off to check how things are progressing. Take a peek after 15 minutes and then check every minute or two after.

7. Remove from heat, fluff with a fork, and cover with a clean dishcloth. Let it stand for a few minutes and then serve!

We like to serve pilaf with dishes like these:
Spice-Seared Boneless Leg of Lamb
Ginger and Cilantro Baked Tilapia
Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Cornmeal Herb Rub
Creamy Braised Cauliflower with Sun-dried Tomatoes
Sweet and Spicy Squash

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