This fragrant pilaf is easy to prepare, and its golden hue adds drama to the presentation. Do not use canned chicken stock. Its salty, tinny taste will overwhelm the delicacy of the dish. SERVES 4
• 1 cup basmati rice
• 1 tablespoon butter or canola oil
• 1 bay leaf, preferably fresh
• 1/2 cup minced dried apricots (about 6 ounces)
• 1/2 teaspoon sugar
• 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
• 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 1/8 teaspoon salt
• 2 cups water or homemade chicken stock
• 1/4 cup slivered almonds
• 2 tablespoons milk
• 1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
1. Rinse the rice and drain well. Heat the butter or oil over medium heat in a heavy saucepan fitted with a cover. When the butter is warm, sauté the rice until dry and faintly golden.
2. Add the remaining ingredients except the almonds, milk, and turmeric. Cover the pan and raise the heat. When the liquid boils, immediately reduce the heat to low. Steam the rice until tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. While the rice cooks, toast the almond pieces in a 275-degree oven until fragrant, about 5 minutes, then set aside. Heat the milk and turmeric in a small saucepan just to slightly warmer than body temperature.
3. When the rice is cooked, sprinkle with the almonds, then drizzle the milk over the rice. Toss gently with two forks to mix, then serve.
Cornelia Carlson holds a doctorate in biochemistry and is an avid grower and user of herbs. She writes frequently for Herbs for Health and is the author of The Practically Meatless Gourmet (Berkley, 1996). She writes from her home in Arizona.
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