If you live somewhere that did NOT have record high temperatures all summer and, as a result, the herbs in your garden thrived instead of died, then this is a great use of your end-of-summer herb bounty. The rest of us can get our herbs from the grocery store. We saw Mark Bittman, New York Times columnist and cookbook author, prepare this dish on the Today Show, and we were intrigued enough to try it ourselves at home. According to Bittman, there are a lot of herbs that you can use by the handful — similar to green, leafy vegetables. The handfuls of herbs in this rice dish include parsley, cilantro, chives and mint, accompanied by ingredients including basmati rice, grapeseed oil, onion, garlic, chicken stock (or broth) and lemon zest. This combination resulted in a unique, fresh and flavorful take on rice pilaf that we enjoyed very much.
Start by heating the oil (Bittman recommends a “neutral” oil, such as grapeseed or corn) in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
Add the chopped onion and minced garlic to the oil and cook until the onions are softened — about 5 minutes.
Add the rice…
…and continue cooking over medium-high heat until the rice becomes glossy — about 1-2 minutes.
Add the chicken stock (you could also use vegetable stock.)
Season with salt and pepper, then bring the rice dish to a boil. Turn the heat down to low and cook, covered, until the rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed — about 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, taste the rice and make sure the texture is to your liking. If it’s under-done (a little “toothsome,” as we call it), then add a little more chicken stock and continue cooking for a few more minutes until the extra liquid cooks off.
While the rice cooks, prepare the herbs. Pretty much the only herb that survived in our garden this summer was oregano, so we decided to add some to the dish. The recipe called for equal parts parsley and cilantro, plus equal parts — but less of them — chives and mint. So we used the same amount of oregano as the chives and mint. (We like to think Bittman would be pleased with our improvisation.) A cool trick for easily pulling the oregano leaves off the stems is to hold each stem at the very top, and place the fingers of your other hand around the leaves and stem just under the top…
…then gently pull down and the leaves come right off the stem into the palm of your hand.
Chop up all the herbs. Take the rice off the heat, add the herbs to the pan, stir it all together and replace the lid. Allow the rice to rest off the heat, covered, for about 10 minutes.
Uncover the rice, add the lemon zest and taste, adjusting the seasonings as necessary. Bittman recommends a drizzle of soy sauce on the finished rice, but we didn’t think the rice needed the extra salty flavor.
We served the rice that night with barbecued swordfish and a black olive-cucumber salad with red wine-chive vinaigrette for a fantastic (and healthy!) (and herb-y!) meal. We love this rice and look forward to trying it again, maybe improvising further with the herb combinations, based on whatever is fresh and available.