Saffron Rice with Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts

Today is one heck of a special day. Like jump up and down, and square dance like you did in high school (or was that just me?) kind of day. My friend Faith Gorsky from An Edible Mosaic just had her first cookbook released: An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair!!

I was so pleased when Faith asked me to be a part of her virtual book launch party and share a recipe from the book with me. The book has over 100 Middle Eastern recipes, with a focus mainly on dishes from the Levant, but also a few recipes from other areas of the Middle East. After hearing Faith’s story, I am dying to go to the Middle East and eat the food. DYING!

Faith spent six months living in the Middle East, and after returning home, couldn’t stop going back to visit making sure to take in the culture and food more and more each time. Recipes in her book are authentic Middle Eastern (taught to Faith mostly by her mother-in-law, Sahar), but made totally easy for the home cook. Faith explains complicated dishes in an approachable, easy-to-follow way. I’m totally buying it, and am heading over to order it on Amazon right now! (you can also get it from Barnes and Noble).

After you check out the recipe for Saffron Rice with Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts, head on over to Faith’s blog to check out her virtual book launch party to see the other bloggers who are participating. Also, as part of her virtual book launch, Faith is hosting a giveaway of a fabulous set of prizes, which you will totally want to enter for! Even I’m entering…because I like free stuff. DUH!

This recipe for Saffron Rice with Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts is perfect for my November vegan month, but it would also be a perfect side dish for you meat eaters out there. Faith recommends serving it with chicken, beef, or lamb (or any curry dish).

Let’s make this, shall we? Soak the rice in tepid water for 10 minutes; drain. While the rice is soaking, put half a kettle of water on to boil.

Add the oil to a medium, thick-bottomed lidded saucepan over medium heat. Add the pine nuts and cook until golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

Transfer the pine nuts to a small bowl and set aside.

Add the onion to the saucepan you cooked the pine nuts in, and cook until softened and just starting to brown, about 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the rice and cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently.

Stir in the sultanas, boiling water, salt, and saffron (or turmeric), turn the heat up to high, and bring it to a rolling boil.

Give the rice a stir, then cover the saucepan, turn the heat down to very low, and cook until tender, about 10 minutes (do not open the lid during this time). Turn the heat off and let the rice sit (covered) 15 minutes, then fluff with a fork.

Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle the toasted pine nuts on top; serve.

Saffron Rice with Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts
“ROZ MLOW’WAN”
Recipe courtesy of An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair by Faith Gorsky (Tuttle Publishing; Nov. 2012); reprinted with permission.
Serves 4 to 6
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes, plus 15 minutes to let the rice sit after cooking

Ingredients:
1½ cups (325 g) basmati rice, rinsed
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons pine nuts
1 onion, finely diced
4 tablespoons sultanas (golden raisins)
1¾ cups (425 ml) boiling water
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon saffron threads (or ½ teaspoon turmeric)

Directions:
1. Soak the rice in tepid water for 10 minutes; drain. While the rice is soaking, put half a kettle of water on to boil.
2. Add the oil to a medium, thick-bottomed lidded saucepan over medium heat. Add the pine nuts and cook until golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Transfer the pine nuts to a small bowl and set aside.
3. Add the onion to the saucepan you cooked the pine nuts in, and cook until softened and just starting to brown, about 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the rice and cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the sultanas, boiling water, salt, and saffron (or turmeric), turn the heat up to high, and bring it to a rolling boil.
4. Give the rice a stir, then cover the saucepan, turn the heat down to very low, and cook until tender, about 10 minutes (do not open the lid during this time). Turn the heat off and let the rice sit (covered) 15 minutes, then fluff with a fork.
5. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle the toasted pine nuts on top; serve.

OPTIONAL: Add two pods of cardamom, two whole cloves, and one 2-inch (5 cm) piece of cinnamon stick at the same time that you add the rice.

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Costa Rican Black Beans and Butter Honey Plantains

Anyone else ready for summer? Don’t get me wrong, I love a good winter ski, snowmobile ride, or outdoor hot tub party, but I am missing the beach!

I grew up in a little town in Ontario where beaches are everywhere. In fact, my Grandparents (where I spent most of my time) live on a beach, my cottage is on a beach, and my high school was in 5 minutes walking distance to a beach. Geeze…just writing that makes me homesick!

Luckily, my vacation in Costa Rica brought some darn great ocean views. Tropical wise, I’ve only ever been to Cuba (two times) and Mexico, but Costa Rica has by far the best beaches.

To make me feel sexy like a Costa Rican tropical again, I threw together this awesome Costa Rican meal! Saucy black beans, brown rice, and some scream worthy butter honey plantains. You need to make this. Like now.

To begin, get your brown rice cooking and get out your ingredients: black beans, onion, lime, tomato paste, oregano, cumin, veggie broth, chili and garlic (I guess it’s missing in this photo!)

After about 10 minutes, start cooking your black beans by first heating a medium skillet over medium heat and adding canola oil. Once shimmering, cook your onion until translucent.

Stir in the garlic, tomato paste, and bay leaf until the garlic is fragrant and the tomato paste has cooked off a bit, about 30-60 seconds.

Add the beans to the pan and using a wooden spatula, smash about half of the beans.

Stir in the veggie broth, chili powder, cumin, and oregano. Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until flavours meld and most of the broth has been absorbed, about 10 minutes.

Stir in lime juice and season to taste with salt and pepper as needed.

The plantains only take about 10 minutes so these can be made right after you start your beans. First, melt butter and add plantains in a single layer.

Cook plantains on each side, for about 3 minutes, or until they reach a caramelized brown color. Drizzle with honey just before they are ready. Transfer to a plate covered with paper towel and allow to drain for a minute.

Now you can get to plating. Add a scoop of brown rice on your plate. Add half the black beans. Add half of the plantains and you’re done! If you want to be fancy (or awesome) you could add some chopped scallions or cilantro. My boy loooooves cilantro so of course he threw a giant handful on top and mixed it all around.

Costa Rican Black Beans
Recipe adapted from Smells Like Home
Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:
4 tsp canola oil
1/2 cup diced onion
2 fat cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 bay leaf
2 cans (15 1/2 oz) of black beans, ( 1 can drained and rinsed, 1 whole can)
1 cup vegetable broth
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp oregano
Juice of 1 lime
Chopped cilantro (optional, for garnish)

Directions:
Heat a medium skillet over medium heat, and add the canola oil. Once shimmering, cook the onion until translucent. Stir in the garlic, tomato paste, and bay leaf until the garlic is fragrant and the tomato paste has cooked off a bit, about 30-60 seconds.

Add the beans to the pan. One can should be drained and rinsed and the other should be put in juice and all. Using a wooden spatula or potato masher, smash the beans until about half are mashed up. Stir in the veggie broth, chili powder, cumin, and oregano. Your beans should be “soupy” and that is a GOOD thing! Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until flavours meld and most of the broth has been absorbed, about 10 minutes. Stir in lime juice and season to taste with salt and pepper as needed.

If desired, sprinkle cilantro.

Butter Honey Plantains
A Warm Vanilla Sugar Recipe

Ingredients:
1 ripe (almost black) plantain, peeled and sliced in 1 inch slices
2 tablespoons butter
Drizzle of honey

Directions:
In a non-stick skillet over medium heat, melt butter.

Add plantains, in a single layer. Cook plantains on each side, for about 3 minutes, or until they reach a caramelized brown color. Drizzle with honey just before they are ready.

Transfer to a plate covered with paper towel and allow to drain for a minute.

Baked Chickpea Garlic Rice Pilaf

For the past week I’ve been having trouble knowing what to do with myself. Towards the end of October a pain developed in my left hip and it ended up being bad enough that I decided to take this week off from running in hopes it would get better. I thought is was an overuse injury – I’ve had this before in my foot, but it’s been a week today and I can still feel the pain anytime I have to run for the bus, or when I have to do things like “skaters” in my workout routine. I can still do strength workouts, yoga, and pretty much anything that’s not cardio….but none of it’s running. And running is a major thing in my life that makes me happy.

I’ve been running since high school, but I started running regularly when I was 19 and have pretty much been hitting the pavement 5-6 days a week since. It clears my mind, it hipes up my endorphins, it makes me feel strong. For those of you who do run, you know what I mean, but for those who don’t, trust me, it’s addicting. Not being able to do this simple 40 – 120 minute thing every day has really thrown me off. I feel lost. Yoga helps a bit. Long walks help a bit. But I still feel…weird.

I wish I could say something uplifting now. Tell you how I’ve gotten over it or tell you that I’m feeling better because of this awesome rice dish. But I think I just need time. Or advice. And I need to write these thoughts down because this is pretty much all I think about right now! I chose to share this particular rice dish because it is a favorite thing of mine. Like running, or chocolate chip cookies, or Nanny’s house. It’s something I’ve been making for a long time. It’s garlic-y, warm, and has a perfect blend of flavours that cook right into the rice. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

In a saucepan or skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat.

Add the garlic and let cook for about 1 minute.

Add rice to the pan and cook until both are golden brown, about 3-4 minutes.

Stir in 1 cup of the chicken broth or veggie stock, salt and pepper and bring to a boil.

Pour the mixture into the casserole dish, cover, and bake for 25 minutes.

Stir in the remaining 1½ cups chicken broth and bake, covered, for another 45 minutes.

About 15 minutes before it is finished baking, stir in a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

Eat up!

Baked Chickpea Garlic Rice Pilaf
Makes 3 main dish meals and 5 side dish meals
Annie’s Eats

Ingredients:
2 tbsp. butter
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 cup long-grain white rice
2½ cups chicken broth (or veggie broth), divided
1 cup canned chickpeas, drained
½ tsp. salt
pepper to taste
Squeeze of lemon juice

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 375° F. Have ready a covered casserole dish.

In a saucepan or skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat.

Add the garlic and rice to the pan and cook until both are golden brown, about 3-4 minutes.

Stir in 1 cup of the chicken/veggie broth, salt and pepper and bring to a boil.

Pour the mixture into the casserole dish, cover, and bake for 25 minutes.

Stir in the remaining 1½ cups chicken/veggie broth and bake, covered, for another 45 minutes.

About 15 minutes before it is finished baking, stir in a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

Note: This recipe can be doubled without increasing the baking time. I double this recipe almost every time I make it and it turns out just as yummy!

Coconut Curried Sweet Potato and Chickpea Soup

I just arrived back in Ottawa after a quick visit with my family. It’s funny how being home never changes. The same people work at the grocery store, the same smiling faces are on the street…it makes me happy.

Paul and I visited this particular weekend because my Grandparents were putting on a dance at their local Lions Hall. It was a riot! Tons of waltzes, polkas, two steps, and of course, square dances.

Now, Paul had never danced a day in his life before I brought him home. So, like every newcomer my Grandparents and I showed him a few of the basic moves for a square dance and gave him a few waltzing and polka lessons. He caught on great! And we ended up having a blast. Funny how something you dread can turn out to be fun!

We of course ate a lot of sweets this weekend, and after these sorts of indulgences I thought I would turn to something healthy, like this soup. It contains all the fixings of what I’ve been craving lately. Sweet potatoes, curry, and coconut milk. Great for fall, and great for my tummy. Plus it’s a nice thing to eat after all those sugary squares and brownies!

To begin, chop up your peppers and onions and mince your garlic.

Cook onions, jalapeno pepper, and bell pepper until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add garlic; cook 2 minutes more.

Add curry powder and cayenne and cook, stirring for about one minute.

Chop up your sweet potato and then add it and chickpeas.

Transfer your mixture to a soup pot and add chicken broth, water and coconut milk. Season to taste with salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until yams are tender, about 30 minutes. Stir in cilantro, reserving a bit for garnish if desired.

Coconut Curried Yam and Chickpea Soup
Recipe adapted from foodess
Serves 4

Ingredients:
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp curry powder
1/4 tsp cayenne powder
1 can chickpeas, drained (about 2 cups)
2 large sweet potatoes, cubed
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1 can coconut milk (slightly less than 2 cups)
salt to taste
chopped cilantro, to taste

Directions:
Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium high heat. Cook onions, jalapeno pepper, and bell pepper until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic; cook 2 minutes more. Add curry powder and cayenne and cook, stirring, one minute. Add chickpeas, cubed yam, chicken broth, water and coconut milk. Season to taste with salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until yams are tender, about 30 minutes. Stir in cilantro, reserving a bit for garnish if desired.

Classic Rice Pudding

I’m a town-y. I grew up in this cute little town in Ontario, Canada, where my soccer team played right along the river, weekends were spent on the beach, and we would go for rollerblades or bike rides in the evening. Being a teenager was easy, fun, and I hardly had any real worries besides thinking my mother was going to ruin my life…but what teenage girl doesn’t think that?! I genuinely thought that my friends and I would just be able to drink Coca-cola and be happy in this little place forever. Parent free!

Of course I grew up. University came, and I was exposed to the big city. The big, complicated city. I now had bills and boys to deal with and things were annoyingly different. I now missed my family, the same family who I thought was so obnoxious earlier! I missed simple.

This is how I think of this rice pudding. It’s like home. Plain, pretty, and simple. It makes me happy, and is not too complicated to on the palate or to make! Let’s get cookin’ shall we? In a heavy 4-quart pot, combine the milk and cream.

Bring the mixture just to a boil over medium-high heat (small bubbles will appear around the edge of the pan), stirring frequently.

Stir the rice, sugar, raisins, and butter together.

Add to cream mixture. Bring the mixture to a boil again, then reduce the heat. Cover and simmer, stirring frequently, until the rice is tender, about 1 hour.

Beat the eggs in a bowl until light. Add cinnamon.

Temper the eggs by combining 1/4 cup of the cooked rice mixture with the eggs, stirring quickly.

Add the egg-rice mixture back into the pot and incorporate with the rest of the rice. Stir constantly over low heat until the pudding thickens, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat.

Serve nice and hot right out of the pot, or keep covered and cool before serving. Spoon the pudding into dessert dishes and sprinkle with additional cinnamon.

The pudding will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 days. I prefer it cold :)

Classic Rice Pudding
Recipe slightly adapted from Daydreamer Desserts
Serves: 12-14

Ingredients:
7 cups whole milk
2 cup heavy cream or soy cream (I used this)
1 1/3 cups long grain rice
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup unsalted butter
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, for garnish

Directions:
In a heavy 4-quart pot, combine the milk and heavy cream. Bring the mixture just to a boil over medium-high heat (small bubbles will appear around the edge of the pan), stirring frequently.

Stir in the rice, sugar, raisins, and butter. Bring the mixture to a boil again, then reduce the heat. Cover and simmer, stirring frequently, until the rice is tender, about 1 hour. Beat the eggs in a bowl until light.

Temper the eggs by combining 1/4 cup of the cooked rice mixture with the eggs, stirring quickly. Add the egg-rice mixture back into the pot and incorporate with the rest of the rice. Stir constantly over low heat until the pudding thickens, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat.

Serve nice and hot right out of the pot, or keep covered and cool before serving. I personally like it cold!

Spoon the pudding into dessert dishes and sprinkle with cinnamon.

The pudding will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 days.