Tomato Rice Pilaf

We love a good rice dish — from a simple rice side, to an herbed-up version, to a Louisiana staple.  It’s not always easy to find interesting ways to dress up plain rice, but Ina Garten came through for us yet again.  This recipe is in her book “Barefoot In Paris,” but as the Barefoot Contessa herself says, the dish is “probably as close to Italian cuisine in flavoring as it is to French…”  Rather than Italian or French food, this side dish actually reminded us of Spanish paella.  Regardless of its origins, this rice is flavor country, with richness from the saffron, chicken broth and Parmesan, as well as fresh notes from the tomatoes and parsley.


The ingredients include basmati rice, olive oil, yellow onion, chicken broth, saffron, garlic, whole canned tomatoes, parsley, Parmesan cheese and salt & pepper.


Start by heating 2 cups of chicken stock.  Bring it to a boil, then cover the pot and turn off the heat.


Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a large saucepan, then add the chopped onion and cook over low heat until the onion is translucent — about 10 minutes.


Add a cup of rice and a teaspoon of Kosher salt and cook over low heat for about 3-5 minutes.


Next, add the hot chicken broth and 1/4 teaspoon of saffron threads.  (You can find saffron in the spice section of the grocery store.  It’s expensive, but you’ll generally only use a little bit of it per recipe, so it will last a long time.)  Cook over low heat until the rice is tender — about 20 minutes.  Be sure to taste the rice after 20 minutes to determine whether the texture is how you like it.  If the rice is still a little “toothsome,” keep cooking it (add a little more chicken broth if it seems too dry.)


Drain the tomatoes and chop them into big pieces.


Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a medium nonstick skillet, then add 2 cloves of chopped garlic and cook until fragrant — about 30 seconds.  Add the chopped tomatoes to the garlic and cook for about 5 minutes.


Add the warm tomatoes and garlic to the cooked rice, then add a tablespoon of chopped parsley, 2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese and a dash of salt.


Stir everything together and fluff the rice with a fork.  Taste, then add salt & pepper as needed.  We served ours with Cilantro-Chipotle Tilapia, but this versatile rice would also pair well with other seafood and poultry dishes.

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