The secret of this pilaf is using the flavorful oil leftover from making the crispy onions to saute the rice before adding any water. It adds a rich, savory background that makes the dish more satisfying.
I’ll happily eat this as a main course with nothing more than a last-minute squeeze of lemon, but it also plays nicely as a side dish in a larger Middle Eastern spread. It also works well for summer potlucks because it doesn’t need to be served hot.
By the way, did you ever wonder how restaurants make saffron rice with some grains tinted and others pure white? It doesn’t take two pots. You make the rice as usual, then drizzle a bit of saffron-infused water on one side of the pot and let it absorb before fluffing.
Vegetarian, vegan, gluten free and kosher
- 1 medium white onion, fried like the shallots in this recipe
- 1/4 cup oil reserved from frying onions
- 2 cups basmati rice
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt (2 teaspoons if Mortons)
- Big pinch saffron
- 2 cups cooked chickpeas
- 1 bunch dill, rinsed, dried, and minced at last minute (no stems)
- 1 bunch mint, rinsed, dried and torn at last minute
- Maldon salt
- 1 lemon, cut into wedges
- Heat the onion-flavored oil in a medium saucepan, at least two quart sized, over medium high heat. Add the rice and salt and cook for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently, until translucent. Add 3 1/2 cups water, cover, and raise heat to high. When the water is boiling, reduce heat to the barest simmer, leave the cover on, and cook until the water is completely absorbed, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat.
- Quickly crush the saffron in a mortar and pestle (improvised is fine). Pour about 2 tablespoons of boiling water over it and stir to create the vibrant orange color. Open the pot of rice and pour the saffron water on one side of the pot, so only some of the rice is colored. Allow to stand until somewhat cooled, then fluff.
- Add the chickpeas, along with 2/3'rds of the dill and mint. Toss gently. Taste and adjust seasoning.
- To serve, mound the rice on a platter and garnish with the remaining dill, mint, and fried onions, and some flaky Maldon salt. Serve with lemon wedges so diners can add a little bit to their taste.