Georgian pilaf with tart cherries

by Stevie on December 31, 2009

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Georgian pilaf with tart cherries

I made this rice dish over Heguiberto’s objection for Christmas dinner last week. He objected not because it was a non-traditional dish (which he doesn’t care about) or because it was a rice dish (he loves rice). Rather, he didn’t like the idea of the tart cherries. Though he’s from Brazil where there is abundant fruit throughout the year, and he’s been cooking for decades, he still can’t wrap his mind around the idea of fruit in a savory dish. Silly thing! After eating this Georgian pilaf, he’s now a true believer, and you will be too!

I found the recipe in Silk Road Cooking: A Vegetarian Journey by Najmieh Batmanglij. We’ve had the book for years but only tried a few of the dishes. She excels at rice dishes, so I’d recommend that you get the book to try these for sure. That’s the advice that I’m planning to take.

I’ve modified the recipe slightly as I thought that it would go better.

key ingredients for Georgian pilaf

Georgian Pilaf with Tart Cherries

2 cups basmati rice
3 cups water
½ cup vegetable oil
2 tsp salt
1 medium onion, finely sliced
1 inch piece peeled fresh ginger, grated
2 two inch cinnamon sticks
2 cups pitted tart cherries. (I used Morello cherries in a light syrup from Trader J’s. Just rinse them before use.)
1 Serrano chile; stem, seeds and ribs removed; minced
½ tsp saffron threads, ground and dissolved in 2 tbsp hot water
½ cup blanched, pan toasted almond slivers
½ cup shelled unsalted pistachios

rinse the basmati rice thoroughly before cooking

Rinse basmati rice thoroughly with cold water before cooking.

saffron and sour cherries make this dish exciting

Put two tablespoons vegetable oil in a pan over high heat. Add salt and rice. Sauté for about a minute. Add water and cover tightly. Bring to boil then lower to simmer. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Remove from heat when water is absorbed (about fifteen minutes). Set aside.

While rice is cooking, pour remaining oil into a large non-stick pan on medium-high heat. Add onion, Serrano, ginger, cinnamon sticks. Sauté until onion turns a golden brown. Then add cherries and saffron. Stir to warm. Add nuts. Mix well.

Fold rice into cherry mixture. Cover to warm through. The book recommends cooking for another fifteen minutes. I added a bit more water and let it cook a bit longer but to me it seemed done.
Plate and serve. We had this with a remarkable fish dish that John made from a recent Saveur magazine issue. Hegui wants me to make the rice again sometime!

Georgian pilaf with tart cherries

Thanks for sharing this video, Jack! Happy Holidays, everyone! Welcome 2010!!!

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Sean January 1, 2010 at 7:53 pm

What a curious dish! And I didn’t realize TJs had morellos in the jar. Good to know.

heather January 3, 2010 at 10:17 am

the rice dish looks delicious! najmieh batamanglij is also the author of a great persian cookbook, New Food of Life, which I highly recommend. looking forward to reading more of your blog this year!

Heguiberto January 3, 2010 at 11:52 am

I love her recipes, I am going to look for that book. Happy New Year

thousand oaks childrens dentist August 20, 2010 at 9:37 pm

I noticed you used vegetable oil rather than extra virgin olive oil. Is there any difference in the health properties of vegetable oil vs. extra virgin olive oil? I came across this quote by Nicholas Perricone and I was wondering what you thought about it and whether you recommend vegetable oil or extra virgin olive oil.

“Extra virgin olive oil is one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory foods in existence. Though I cannot promise you an equally long life span [as the olive tree’s life span], I can assure you that you will look younger, think more clearly, be more active and, yes, extend your life if you incorporate extra virgin olive oil into your diet on a daily basis.”

If this is true do you think?

Stevie August 21, 2010 at 11:15 am


I’ve heard that olive oil has health benefits as well. Actually, we tend to use much more olive oil than any other kind while cooking. For this recipe, I suspect that the original called for vegetable oil either because the flavor is more neutral so it doesn’t get lost with all of the other ingredients and/or because it has a higher smoking point so you can cook with it at greater temperatures. But I’m just guessing here. Thanks for your comment!

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