When you made up that quiche yesterday, what did you do with the rice you used for blind-baking the crust? Did you toss it? We hope not, because we’re going to use that cup of rice to scratch up a quick and easy rice pilaf. In fact, this is one of our favorite pilafs, and we’re always surprised by just how tasty rice is with the addition of raisins.
It used to be that we’d have this rice pilaf often, generally with a side of Spanakopita, primarily because the two recipes are right next to one another in the cookbook that we used: Southern Living Cookbook for Two, by Audrey P. Stehle. Now we only have it once in a while; we’re not sure why, but it just sort of fell off our radar screens, until we blind-baked that crust.
Pilafs are flexible, accommodating ingredients that you have on hand, not needing ingredients you’re missing. A case in point: this is the first time we added toasted sesame seeds, and we only did so because we had some on hand from a cracker experiment (read about that on Thursday); no other reason. But it was a really good addition. The ingredients that we really recommend you use — other than rice, of course — are the raisins, and, perhaps surprisingly, the milk. We can’t put our finger on exactly what the milk adds, but we know that it’s better with milk.
Procedure in detail:
Fry onions. Melt the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet with a tight-fitting lid. When melted, add the onions and fry, stirring occasionally, until tender and lightly browned, about 5 to 7 minutes.
Toast pasta. Add the orzo to the pan, and cook, stirring continuously, until the pasta is lightly toasted, about 2 minutes.
Make broth. Add vegetable broth, raisins, nutmeg, mushrooms, and milk, and bring to a simmer. You want the liquid hot before adding the rice and sesame seeds; it’ll help keep the rice from breaking apart during cooking.
Add rice and seeds. Stir in the rice and the sesame seeds, and bring everything back to a simmer.
Steam. Cover the skillet, reduce the heat as low as you can, and let steam for 20 minutes. Since it’s the steam that cooks the rice, try not to peek.
Fluff and serve. Use a fork or spoon to fluff the rice gently, then serve, topping with a small handful of sliced almonds.
As we said, this is one of our favorite pilafs, and we really like cooking the raisins along with the rice. They plump up nicely, add just a hint of sweetness to the rice, but aren’t so cloyingly sweet as to be distracting. The addition of the sesame seeds was fortuitous, but nice. We’re not sure that we’d bother toasting sesame seeds just for this dish, but we might consider adding a bit of tahini (if we have some on hand) the next time we make it. Overall, four solid stars.