Welcome to #ProgressiveEats, our virtual version of a progressive dinner party where each course is held at a different home. This month we are celebrating a Middle Eastern / Moroccan Menu, and our event is hosted by Susan who blogs at The Wimpy Vegetarian. You’ll love all the recipes that are packed with exotic flavors and bursting with beautiful colors to tempt you into the kitchen and release your inner-Ottolenghi! If you are looking for something new to try, check out these wonderfully creative dishes!
This month I chose a side dish to share with you, a spin on a classic dish often found at weddings and other celebrations, Persian-Style Jeweled Rice. It is gorgeous and delicious with flavors that complement many main courses. The dish gets its name from the combination of dried fruits and nuts that sparkle throughout the rice. It is a treat typically enjoyed at festivals and weddings in Iran and is a delightful side dish to roasted chicken or turkey. I served mine with turkey after Thanksgiving – with the aromatic spices, it was a totally different meal and may be my favorite way to serve up our leftovers.
This may look like a complicated recipe with all the spices, but it is really simple to make and mostly hands-off once you get it assembled, leaving you time to finish the rest of the meal while the rice cooks. You could make the spiced onions and fruit layer a day ahead and reheat it when you’re ready to make the rice.
Don’t worry about the long list of spices used, many of them you will already have in your cupboard, and are commonly used in holiday baking. While in America we tend to think of using them to make sweet treats, they are equally good in savory dishes. These flavors have been used in dishes for hundreds of years and are absolutely delicious together.
If you want to explore more of this style of cooking, in addition to the delightful dishes prepared by our team of intrepid bloggers, you will love the cookbook, Jerusalem: A Cookbook from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. Both men were born in Jerusalem in the same year, Tamimi on the Arab east side and Ottolenghi in the Jewish west. The 120 recipes in this book explore their unique cross-cultural perspective. Ottolenghi is one of the most respected chefs in the world with 5 restaurants in London. This award-winning book is eye-opening and you will find yourself reaching for it often because the flavors are enticing and hauntingly unforgettable.
The house smelled wonderful when this was cooking, filling every corner with intriguing aromas, like something you didn’t know you always wanted! Give this a try and step out of your comfort zone – you may be surprised how delicious it is and how fun it is to give your family something new and different for dinner.
Be sure to check out the other recipes below – they are amazing as usual. This is an incredibly talented group of bloggers!!
- 2 cups raw Basmati rice
- Kosher or fine sea salt
- 5 tablespoons, unsalted butter, divided
- 1 large onion, trimmed, peeled, and finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
- 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled and soaked in 1/4 cup very hot water
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
- 1/8 tsp ground allspice
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp ground cumin
- 1/3 cup golden raisins or currants
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries, soaked in warm water for 5 minutes and drained
- 3 tbsp plain yogurt
- 1/2 cup blanched slivered almonds, roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup roughly chopped pistachios
- Additional dried cranberries (also soaked and drained)
- Thinly sliced green onions
- Ground sumac, to taste, optional
- Pre-Cook Rice: Fill a large bowl with water and stir in the rice. The water will become cloudy with the starch from the outside of the grains. Drain and repeat 2 more times or until the water is more clear after stirring.
- Transfer the rice to a 4-quart pot* and cover with fresh water to cover the rice by 1-inch. Bring to a boil and stir in 2 tbsp of the salt. Reduce to medium and cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire strainer and rinse the rice again under cold running water. Set aside to finish draining. The rice will not be fully cooked at this stage but will finish in the next steps.
- In a small pan, melt 1 tbsp of butter with the crumbled saffron and 3 tbsp water. Break up any clumps of saffron as much as possible. Set aside.
- Make Seasoned Layer: Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, season lightly with salt and cook until softened and starting to turn golden, 4 to 5 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of the saffron water and stir in the cinnamon, cardamom, allspice, black pepper, and cumin. Cook for 1 minute. Stir in the raisins and cranberries. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- Place 1 cup of the partially cooked rice in a bowl and stir in the yogurt and 1/2 tsp of the saffron mixture. When thoroughly combined, set next to the stove.
- Assemble and Cook the Rice: Melt 2 tbsp butter in a large heavy nonstick saucepot over medium-low heat.** Add the yogurt/rice mixture and spread it evenly on the bottom of the pan. Spoon half the par-cooked rice into the pot, gently spreading it out to cover the first layer of rice without disturbing it. Spoon the onion-fruit mixture over the top, and then the remaining rice.
- Using a spatula, carefully push the rice away from the sides of the pan and mound it in the center. Use the handle of a wooden spoon or equivalent to make 3 steam vent holes in the rice, about an inch apart and going through most of the rice but not the bottom layer.
- Drizzle the remaining saffron water over the rice, cover the pan with a clean, dry kitchen towel,*** and put on the lid. If the towel drapes over the edges, pull the ends up on top of the lid to avoid a fire hazard.
- Set the heat to medium low and leave undisturbed for 30 minutes. Turn off the heat, leave the pan on the same burner, and let rest at least 10 to 15 minutes longer.
- To Serve: Spoon the top 3 layers of the rice into a large bowl and toss together to combine, distributing the seasoning and fruit evenly. Transfer to a wide bowl or platter.
- Loosen the crispy crust with a spatula if needed. Set a plate inside the pan on top of the crust, and holding the plate and pan together, invert them so the crust falls onto the plate. Cut it into 3 or 4 pieces and set on top of the rice. Sprinkle with the pistachios, cranberries, green onions, and sumac (if using). Serve immediately.
- Yield: 8 to 10 servings
- * Definitely use a 4-quart or larger saucepan to cook the rice. Any smaller and it will boil over.
- ** I used my 12-Inch Anolon Stir-Fry Pan and the crust browned evenly with no sticking. I highly recommend it.
- *** Use a plain white towel if possible so you can bleach it afterwards. It will likely touch the saffron coated rice and get stained.
This dish is part of our monthly progressive dinner party, Progressive Eats. See the links below for more inspiration and great recipes!
Progressive Eats Middle Eastern/Moroccan Menu
- Pomegranate Green Tea Mojito from The Redhead Baker
- Hummus Tehina from Food Hunters Guide to Cuisine
- Lamb Chelo Kebab from Spice Roots
- Prawns, Feta, and Tomatoes over Couscous from The Wimpy Vegetarian
- Homemade Pita Bread from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
- Jeweled Persian-Style Rice (Gluten-Free) from The Heritage Cook
- Pomegranate Posset from Mother Would Know
- Moroccan Shortbread Cookies with Cracked Tops (Ghoriba Bahla) from Pastry Chef Online
To see our upcoming themes and how you can participate, please check out the schedule at Creative Culinary or contact Barb for more information. We have a core group of 12 bloggers, a few alternates, and we always need substitutes.
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