Bejeweled Pomegranate Rice Pilaf
Light up the holiday table this year with a shot of brilliant fuchsia that’s dazzlingly delicious, too.
That’s just what this “Pomegranate Rice Pilaf” is like.
It’s from the new “Masala” (Ten Speed Press), of which I received a review copy.
Spices are integral to Indian cooking, and there’s a whole chapter on them that includes a primer on how to toast and bloom them, the taste profile of the most commonly used ones, their Ayurveda properties, and suggestions on best ways to use them.
The recipes will take you from morning through afternoon to evening in dishes such as “Coconut Pancakes,” “Three Dal Stew,” “Homestyle Butter Chicken,” “Kerala Beef Fry,” and “Saffron Chocolate Bread Pudding.”
Fragrant, long-grain basmati is the foundation of this pilaf, which gets its vivid color from being cooked in pomegranate juice with a sliced red beet.
Mustard oil, cumin seeds, chili powder, and cinnamon sticks add a backbone of warmth without being overtly spicy.
The first time I tried this recipe, admittedly it did not go well. The recipe as originally written called for 1 cup of rice cooked in 3 cups of pomegranate juice, which my gut instinct told me seemed way too much liquid. Sure enough, the rice turned out very mushy.
But the flavor was delicious, so I decided to give it another try. On my second go round, I used only 1 1/2 cups pomegranate juice or half the original amount.
That turned out to be ideal, leaving the grains cooked through, as well as intact and fluffy.
The recipe states to discard the cooked beet, which I thought was a waste. Instead, I used it in a salad the next day. Or you could just nibble on it as you prepare the rest of the meal, making it the perfect cook’s snack. I added that suggestion, as well as the tweaked amount of juice, to the recipe below.
Garnished with pomegranate seeds and toasted pine nuts, the pilaf has a bright fruity taste reminiscent of cranberry sauce. The spices add a note of toasty warmth.
It’s a dish that all eyes will surely turn toward when you set it down next to the Thanksgiving turkey, prime rib, roast duck, or even a simple roast chicken.
Pomegranate Rice Pilaf
1 cup white basmati rice
1/4 cup mustard oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 small red beet, peeled and cut into thick slices
1 1/2 cups pomegranate juice
1 teaspoon red chili powder
2 large cinnamon sticks
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
Rinse the rice in tap water two or three times. After the last rinse, soak the rice in twice the amount of water for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours. Drain.
In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over high heat. When the oil begins to get a shiny surface and is just shy of smoking, gently drop in the cumin seeds. The seeds will being to make a popping and sizzling sound. Immediately add the beet, pomegranate juice, red chile powder, cinnamon sticks, and salt and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the mixture is a deep red in color, then increase the heat to high. Add the rice, bring to a boil again, then lower the heat, cover again, and simmer for 7 to 8 minutes, or until the water has been absorbed completely. Turn the heat off, take the lid off, and let the rice rest for 10 to 12 minutes. (Leaving the lid off while resting secures the bright pink color of the pilaf.) Remove the beet (save it to use for a salad or just enjoy it as a snack), and gently stir the rice with a fork. Garnish with the pomegranate seeds and pine nuts and serve.
Adapted from “Masala” by Anita Jaisinghani
Favorite Thanksgiving Dishes: Overnight Soft Herb Rolls
And: Cathead Biscuits
And: Asiago Apple Galette