Orange vegetable pilau (6+ servings)

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Let's pretend this vegan recipe was posted in time for my self-imposed Sunday night deadline, shall we? This week's recipe comes from Market Vegetarian, an early birthday present from our ever-generous friends Danielle and Josh. The title given to the recipe in the book is "orange vegetable and scallion pilau," and while it contains a gorgeous array of orange vegetables and tubers, it does not, for some reason, contain any scallions. Hmm. A pilau is similar to a pilaf, apparently, and the book says this dish has Middle Eastern origins. It was easy to make, and we've been eating the leftovers since Sunday night!

You will need:

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 large red chile, finely chopped after removing the ribs and seeds
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 cup slivered or sliced almonds
  • 1 1/2 cups basmati rice
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 cup cubed pumpkin or squash (I used frozen butternut squash)
  • 1 small sweet potato, peeled and chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • freshly squeezed juice of one lime
  • handful of cilantro or parsley leaves, chopped

Steps:

  1. Warm the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for about five minutes, stirring often. Add in the garlic, ginger, and chile; cook and stir another 2 minutes.
  2. Sprinkle the coriander, cumin, turmeric, and almonds on the onion mixture. Continue to cook and stir for another 3-5 minutes, or until the spices become aromatic and look very dark in the pan.
  3. Add the dry rice and stir for a minute to coat it with the spices. Add the carrot, pumpkin, and sweet potato to the saucepan. Pour in the water and stir well to loosen any rice that may have stuck to the bottom.
  4. Bring the mixture to a boil; reduce the heat to low and cover the pan. Simmer for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the water is absorbed and the rice is fluffy.
  5. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (I found I needed a LOT of salt.) Season with lime juice and cilantro/parsley, if desired.

I loved the variety of vegetables and the contrasts in texture in this dish, but it was just missing... something. I think the problem may have been using only water as the cooking liquid. Next time I might use half broth and half water, or even add 1/4 cup white wine in there too.

Speaking of cooking liquid, I found that 10 minutes into the 20-25 minute simmering time, all the liquid had already been absorbed, so I had to add another cup to make sure the rice cooked fully. You just might want to be aware of that.

Another note: This dish isn't spicy. I think the red chile I bought from Target was a dud. It seemed plenty spicy when I stupidly pulled out the ribs and seeds without gloves and then mindlessly licked my finger later. (Thank God I didn't touch my eye instead.) Maybe simmering it for so long caused it to lose its flavor. Next time I might use hot smoked Spanish paprika instead and add it to the mixture along with the other spices.

On the subject of chiles, I discovered a cool trick for getting the hot oil of a pepper (capsicum) off your fingertips. Simply rub a pat of butter between your fingers until it's smooth and melted. Then, wash your hands with dishwashing liquid to remove the butter grease. And voila! The capsicum is gone from your skin. Capsicum is fat-soluble, so rubbing your hands with butter (or you could use oil) takes it right off.

I can't wait to try some of the other recipes from this new book. The pasta primavera with lemony bread crumbs looks amazing, as does the root vegetable ragu with spiced couscous!

On an unrelated note, this week's "favorite thing in the world": a mug of hot apple cider with a Yogi Classic India Spice teabag steeped in it. Try it and you will never be the same. Trust me.