Rice is so easy to treat as an afterthought that it's nice when it can play a starring role. I pulled this recipe from Lucid Food, a cookbook I've flipped through a lot lately, full of recipes focused on healthfulness and sustainability (the book's subtitle is "Cooking for an Eco-Conscious Life"). Many of the recipes are vegetarian or vegan, but not in a preachy way, which is a relief. This vegan dish is inspired by the many variations of rice used in Persian cooking, with dried fruits, nuts, herbs, and legumes commonly added to bring flavor and character.
It becomes "green rice" due to substantial amounts of parsley, cilantro, and dill, which are bright against the mellow, unmistakable taste of saffron that permeates the dish. What was perhaps more surprising was the heavy use of citrus, which brings a sourness that really keeps things in balance. A scatter of pistachios bring a subtle sweetness and texture to the proceedings. I served this will a little grilled chicken, but lamb would also be perfect.
- 2 cups basmati rice
- 1 teaspoon saffron threads, put in a couple tablespoons of water to soak
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 leeks, dark green part trimmed away, diced
- 1 teaspoon dried lime powder or 2 lemons, zested and juiced
- 1 cup minced flat-leaf parsley
- 1 cup minced cilantro
- 1/3 cup minced fresh dill
- 1 cup shelled, toasted pistachios
Put the rice in a large bowl and cover with water to remove starch. Repeat until the water is mostly clear, 5 or 6 times. In the meantime, bring 3 1/2 cups water to boil.
Heat a large pot over medium heat and add the oil once hot. Add the leeks and cook for 5 minutes, until soft. Add the rice, saffron with soaking water, lime powder (if using lemon, add the zest) and cook, stirring often, for an additional 2 minutes.
Pour in the boiling water and season to taste with salt. Bring back to a boil, then cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the rice sit for 5 minutes, then uncover and fluff with a fork. Add the herbs, lemon juice if using, and most of the pistachios and toss well to combine. Season with salt if necessary. Serve with the remaining pistachios scattered over the top.