Buttery Mediterranean rice pilafs are my favorite wintry side dishes. With lots of dried fruit, spices and nuts, I’m all about the variety of textures and flavors they have to offer.
It didn’t occur to me until this year that a hearty basmati pilaf belonged at my family’s holiday table. I usually throw together a dish like this at home, as a side dish when my husband and I are having some protein heavy main dish. But with lots of warming spices, and colorful bits of fruit, a good pilaf is pretty darn festive, and certainly holiday-worthy if you ask me.
I’ve played around with a couple of Mediterranean favorites in the past, including mujadara and jeweled rice, but this time around I gave myself a little challenge: I wanted to create a lightened up dish inspired by these classic pilafs, but without sacrificing flavor. The answer: cauliflower rice!
Because I love basmati rice so much, I didn’t want to give it up, so I decided to do a blend of cauliflower rice and basmati. I wasn’t completely sure I’d like the result. As it turned out, I loved it. The dish actually benefited from the addition of some cauliflower. Like I said before, a great pilaf is all about the variety of textures and flavors, and cauliflower rice just adds a bit of both – a little crunch and savory taste to balance out the sweet, mellow and spicy flavors you’d otherwise find in the dish.
This healthy rice pilaf is made with a mix of spiced basmati and cauliflower rice, crunchy almonds, and sweet pomegranate arils.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 cup basmati rice
- 1 ½ cups vegetable broth
- ½ small cauliflower crown, broken into 5 or 6 chunks
- ½ cup dried cherries
- ½ cup slivered almonds
- 1 cup pomegranate arils
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Coat the bottom of a large saucepan with olive oil and place over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, cinnamon, cumin, cardamom and rice. Toast the rice and spices in the saucepan until the mixture becomes very fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add broth, give the mixture a stir, raise heat to high, and bring the liquid to a boil. Lower heat and cover. Allow to simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes, until all of the liquid is absorbed by the rice. Remove from heat and allow to sit for 5 minutes, covered.
- While the rice cooks, place the cauliflower into the bowl of a food processor fitted with an S-blade. Pulse a few times until the cauliflower is finely chopped into bits about the size of rice grains. You should have about 2 cups (if you have much more than that, save some for another project). Transfer the cauliflower to a medium skillet with 2 tablespoons of water. Place over medium heat and cook, flipping occasionally, just until the cauliflower softens a bit, about 2 minutes.
- Remove the lid from the pot of rice and fluff a few times with a fork. Stir in cauliflower, cherries, almonds, pomegranate arils, lemon zest and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.