Saturday, March 12, 2011

Middle-Eastern Inspired Rice Pilaf

Dinner the other night seemed to have a Mediterranean twist without any particular planning ahead.

First, I'd found some amazing artichokes, (2 for a DOLLAR, if you can believe it), at "Tacoma Boys", a local produce and wine market that can have some amazing deals if you watch their flyers! I was SOOO excited, as artichokes are a rare treat in this house - my kids can each inhale an entire 'choke in about five minutes flat!! I do try to buy them, in season, when possible though, because everyone LOVES them, they're loaded with tons of fiber and great vitamins and they're super easy to cook - simply trim and steam them, that's it!! If you don't know how to trim artichokes, there are many tutorials online, but, in my opinion, they 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 11-year-old "Sprout" bouncing around the kitchen anticipating her favorite veggie, so I decided to distract her by having her help me concoct a rice pilaf-type thingy to go with.
Since Sprout was assisting/advising 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 spring potluck yesterday and again, it disappeared quickly.
The secret to our rice is a spice blend called za'atar (also called zatar and zahtar). 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 Penzey's Spices 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; especially in roasted veggies, potatoes and hummus. It's also really good on toasted pita bread that's been brushed with olive oil. You can find it online and 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 Inspired 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
(OPTIONAL) 1 cup finely chopped carrots and zucchini (or other veggies of your choice)
2 tsp za'atar Mediterranean seasoning blend
(OPTIONAL) 2 Tbs nutritional yeast or vegan parmesan
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
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.If adding optional veggies, add after ten min cooking time and continue. After rice has cooked for 25 min, turn heat off and let sit a few minutes. Stir the pilaf, add seasonings, nutritional yeast or 'cheese' (if using) and lemon juice and sprinkle 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 rinsing the garbanzos, draining them and dumping into the rice. She also chopped the nuts and shook in the spices.


Lori said...

This is something I MUST try. This sounds so good and I'm with your daughter. This includes a bunch of my favorite things. I need to cook some garbanzo beans today so I can make this. Thanks for sharing!