Sunday, March 13, 2011

Basmati Rice with Apricots and Nuts

Have you ever tried Basmati Rice?'s so good.  It's sweet, fragrant. I think the tender, grains of basmati are so lovely and lend an exotic look to any dish that calls for rice.  There's a trick to getting this gorgeous grain to cook properly and stay separate, however. Wrap the lid of your pot with a dish towel and no matter how difficult, try to resist lifting the lid to check on the rice while it cooks. You don't want your rice to clump together. Follow this rule and your basmati rice will be perfect every time. 

Here is a delicious, Indian- inspired recipe. It is perfectly seasoned with garam masala (an Indian spice), mint and fresh lemon zest.  There are also wonderful suprises in this dish like dried apricots and toasted nuts!  To make it vegan, replace the butter with your favorite plant based substitute or just use olive or almond oil.  If you want to make this dish even more exotic, try coconut oil instead. 

When I make this rice, I stuff acorn squash with the leftovers. Just cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, stuff the cavity with the rice, drizzle with a bit of oil and place in a baking dish.  Add about 1/4 of cup of water to the bottom of the pan and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until the squash is tender. Serve one stuffed squash half per person with a large tossed salad. Another perfect meatless meal!

Basmati Rice with Dried Apricots

  • 1/4 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 2 wide strips lemon zest
  • 2 cups cold water
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala (an Indian spice blend)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 cup basmati rice, lightly rinsed and drained
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/3 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 1/4 cup toasted unsalted pistachios or cashews


Put the apricots and lemon zest in the 2 cups of cold water. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the garam masala, and toast, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the onion and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is tender and translucent, about 6 minutes.

Stir in the rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to brown, about 4 minutes. Stir in the water along with the apricots, lemon zest, the remaining 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, wrap a clean dish towel around the saucepan lid, and cover saucepan. Cook for 10 minutes, set aside for 5 minutes undisturbed, then remove lid and fluff with a fork. Mound the pilaf on a serving platter or in a shallow bowl, tear the mint over, and top with the nuts.

Game Plan: Toast the nuts while the rice cooks.

Cook's Note: Wrapping the lid with a dish towel keeps the steam in the pot, encourages the rice grains to stay separate, and absorbs condensation that would otherwise collect on the lid and drip back into the pan.

This is so Cynfully Good.

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