Chickpea and Saffron Pilaf with Crispy Onions – Recipe

Chickpea and Saffron Pilaf with Crispy Onions

Chickpea and Saffron Pilaf with Crispy Onions

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.

Chickpea and Saffron Pilaf with Crispy Onions – Recipe

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Chickpea and Saffron Pilaf with Crispy Onions – Recipe

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
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Add the chickpeas, along with 2/3'rds of the dill and mint. Toss gently. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  4. 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.

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Posted by Michael Natkin on Thursday, June 6th, 2013 in Gluten-Free or modifiable, Main Courses, Recipes, Side Dishes, Vegan or Modifiable.

8 Responses to “Chickpea and Saffron Pilaf with Crispy Onions – Recipe”

  1. Reply
    June 6, 2013 at 8:59 pm #

    Looks amazing! Bookmarked. Can’t wait to try.

  2. Reply
    suzanne lee
    June 7, 2013 at 4:14 am #

    Delicious! And thanks for solving the mystery for me! I can’t tell you how much time I’ve spent thinking about that!

  3. Reply
    June 7, 2013 at 1:36 pm #

    I honestly believe that fried onions make any meal taste better (bacon has the same effect for me, but i won’t mention that!)
    Janie x

  4. Reply
    June 8, 2013 at 6:38 pm #

    This looks ridiculously good. Crispy onions are a welcome addition to any dish, in my opinion!

  5. Reply
    Bruce Bowman
    June 24, 2013 at 8:35 am #

    I made this for a potluck yesterday, and it was a big hit! Everyone loved it. Except for the onions, it was pretty quick and easy to put together, too. Be careful with the onions, as they go from not quite done to burnt in just a couple of minutes. I burned the first batch, so had to make them again, but it was worth it. -Bruce

    • Reply
      June 24, 2013 at 9:57 pm #

      Agreed, it can be challenging to time the onions. I’ll have to work on a method that makes them more foolproof; I’ve certainly burned them before as well.

  6. Reply
    July 7, 2013 at 9:38 pm #

    I just purchased some saffron to experiment with some new dishes. This one sounds perfect. I love the idea of the onion flavored oil. What a great way to save money on flavored oils. I often rub a skillet with garlic, but never thought about onion flavored oil. Thanks!

  7. Reply
    July 24, 2013 at 5:02 am #

    I really love Middle Eastern food, because it’s generally spicy, and has a weird blend of spices and other elements. This crispy onion and lemon-sprinkled rice would surely be scooped up and devoured in my house in less than minutes probably. Love it!

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