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.
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 basmati rice thoroughly with cold water before cooking.
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!