This basic recipe for Rice Pilaf can be embellished in several ways.

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Rice pilaf is one of the world’s great culinary gifts. It’s not just a recipe but the foundation for thousands of dishes from around the globe. It is a recipe that most home cooks don’t know about because boxed rice pilaf mixes are preferred. But classic pilaf is such a simple dish to make, and it can be cooked from any rice or grain. The pilaf method can be used for individual grains or a combination of several.

Once you master the basic pilaf, you can simply add other garnishes or spices to create an array of classics. For example, Asian fried rice is based on pilaf, risotto is a version, rice almondine, and yes even Rice-a-Roni is a pilaf.

Pilaf is made by heating a small amount of butter or oil and sauteeing onions, spices and sometimes celery. Then add white, brown or wild rice or any other grain to saute with the vegetables. The oil coats the individual grains so they don’t stick together. Then a hot liquid is added such as stock, water, wine or even fruit juice. You can even use a combination of liquids.

After the liquid is brought to a boil, you add spices, the heat is lowered to a slow simmer and the pot is covered very tightly. The rice or other grain cooks over very low heat until all the liquid is absorbed, and the grain is tender. When you use the right ratio of liquid to grain, this will happen automatically.

Garnishes such as pine nuts, almonds, pistachios, grilled vegetables, any form of protein, capers, sun-dried tomatoes, cheese, olives or beans can be added when the pilaf is just about cooked and the liquid just about all absorbed.

Here is the basic Rice Pilaf recipe as well as some suggestions for garnishes. With these on hand, you’ll never get bored.

One Last Note: Pilaf can be made using other grains such as quinoa, brown rice, barley, spelt, etc. Simply check the package for the ratio of liquid to grain before making the pilaf.

Rice Pilaf

Makes 4 servings

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil or butter

1/2 cup chopped Spanish onions

1 cup jasmine or basmati rice

1 1/2 cups vegetable broth or water

2 bay leaves

Salt and fresh-ground black pepper, to taste

1. Heat the oil or butter in a small saucepan with a tightfitting lid over medium-high heat

2. Add onions and saute 3 minutes until softened. Add the rice and continue to saute until rice is coated well with oil or butter.

3. Add broth or water, bay leaves, salt and pepper; bring to a simmer. Cover well, regulate heat so liquid simmers and cook 25 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender.



Add these ingredients during the last 5 minutes of cooking.

Tuscan Pilaf: Add 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, 1 chopped medium tomato, 1 minced clove garlic, 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese.

Spanish Pilaf: Add 2 teaspoons paprika or smoked paprika; 1 chopped medium tomato; 1/2 cup drained chickpeas; minced jalapeño pepper, to taste.

Asian Rice Pilaf: Add 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce, 1/4 cup frozen peas, 1/4 cup shredded carrots, 1/4 cup chopped red bell peppers, 1 scrambled egg.

Pumpkin Seed Pilaf: Add 1/4 cup shelled pumpkin seeds, 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, 1/4 cup queso blanco.

Nut and Fruit Pilaf: Add 1/4 cup nuts such as pecans, almonds, walnuts, pine nuts, pistachios or macadamias and 1/4 cup dried fruit such as raisins, currants, chopped apricots, apples or pineapple.