Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Middle Eastern Rice Pilaf

Dinner the other night seemed to have a Mediterranean twist without any particular planning ahead. First, I'd found several amazing artichokes at the market and simply trimmed and steamed them. If you don't know how to trim artichokes, there are many tutorials online, but usually they trim off WAY more leaves than we prefer. Basically, mine looks like THIS before I put 'em in the pot...

Well, artichokes take a while to steam, and I had a starving 9-year-old "Sprout" bouncing around the kitchen anticipating her favorite veggie, so I decided to distract her by having her help make a rice pilaf-type thingy to go with.
Since Sprout was assisting me in the kitchen, the rice ended up with several of her OTHER favorites, garbanzos and pistachios. And it turned out GREAT! The combination was such an accidental hit with my kids, I made it for a potluck yesterday and again, it disappeared quickly.
The secret to our rice is a spice blend called za'atar. Za'atar is generally prepared using ground dried thyme, oregano, marjoram, or some combination thereof, mixed with toasted sesame seeds and sometimes, salt. I prefer the version that also has sumac, and is more tangy and reddish in color - TOTALLY delicious stuff. I discovered it several years ago and use it often in roasted veggies, potatoes and hummus. You can find it at Middle Eastern markets and specialty grocery stores. (You CAN sub some thyme, oregano, sesame seeds and a squeeze of lemon juice if you really have to).
Middle Eastern Rice with Za'atar and Garbanzos
1 cup long grain white rice
1/2 cup vermicelli crumbled into 1 inch long pieces (or angel hair pasta, or orzo)
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 cups chicken-style, or vegetable broth
1 cup cooked garbanzo beans
1/2 cup water
2 tsp za'atar Mediterranean seasoning blend
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup chopped pistachios

Put vermicelli and oil in a deep, covered pan suitable for cooking rice.
Heat until the vermicelli is golden brown. (Just like you were making "Rice-A-Roni" if you've ever done that...)
Add rice, broth, garbanzos and water and mix well. Bring to a boil and then lower heat and simmer for 25 minutes until rice is cooked, checking once or so to make sure it's not sticking. Turn heat off and let sit a few minutes. Stir the pilaf, add seasonings and serve garnished with pistachios.
My 'Sprout' loved breaking up the angel-hair pasta into small bits (we did this over the sink, because the stuff flies EVERYwhere..) as well as opening the can of garbanzos, draining them and dumping into the rice. She also chopped the nuts and shook in the spices.


Carrie said...

You know, I've never had a real artichoke. Only the marinated ones that come in a can. I'll have to give this a try sometime.

Amey said...

wow, that rice sounds really yummy! I'm in a pistachio phase right now. :)

Generally I"m not a huge fan of artichokes (mostly because of all the work), but they have been 50 cents for organic ones at our farmer's market... so we've had some lately. Yum!

Virginia said...

i have never had an least not a fresh one..but i have had the marinated artichoke hearts if that counts. they just intimidate me in the store so much! maybe i will dive in and see what happens!

VeggieGirl said...

Divine!! I need to cook more with artichokes.

Catherine said...

OOOOHHHH . . . I made my own za'atar around the holidays for a special party feast, and now have a ton of it left! Thanks for the idea!

P.S. artichokes = heaven!

Jen aka Jewbacca said...

i love simple satisfying rice dishes.

Bianca said...

I'll be going to the Middle Eastern market today for cheap tahini, so I look for za-tar!

Courtney said...

Artichokes are my absolute favorite food--I love them! I always get annoyed when I read how to prepare them on-line because I agree--they tell you to trim off practically the whole thing! So silly. I am now craving artichokes...


Bethany said...

the pilaf looks really good. gotta love rice & garbanzos :). thanks for the tip on za'atar.

A_and_N said...

Hi, first time visitor. You have a nice blog :)

LOL @ "nine year old 'sprout' " :)

the pilaf looks great!