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Friday, September 30, 2011

Going with the Grain: Saffron Rice Pilaf

When I moved to Alaska eleven years ago, people asked "Are there any Jews up there?"

The answer is yes, but not many.  There are two synagogues here, one reform and one conservative.  Both have rabbis who are well-liked in the community.  I belong to the reform synagogue, and admittedly I'm of the twice-a-year variety of Jew. 

The second day of Rosh Hashanah is not a major service, as demonstrated by the 35 or so of us there this morning.  There is something homey about a service with that few people, though--the rabbi made us all squash together in a few rows and take on various parts of the service.

I love Rosh Hashanah.  I love the food, the music, and the sense that for the next week anything is possible because it's a new year and we can atone for the less-than-stellar things we've done in the year before.  Religion is a wholly individual thing and I don't want to dwell on it here, other than to say that while it's been a tough week, it was nice to have time to reflect this morning.

This post is the last of the Rosh Hashanah recipes I've been testing for the last week.  It's a simple rice pilaf colored and flavored by saffron, which went great with the roast chicken with apples and onions posted last week.  It could also perk up the coloring on a simple plate of grilled fish.

I love the vivid coloring of this dish.
Saffron Rice Pilaf
Adapted from Joan Nathan's Quiches, Kugels and Couscous

1/4 tsp. saffron
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1/2 cup shelled pistachios
1 cup long-grain white rice
1/4 tsp. nutmeg, freshly grated if possible
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. salt
2 cups reduced-salt chicken broth
Fresh-ground black pepper

Place the saffron in a small bowl with two tablespoons hot water, and set aside.

While saffron is ridiculously expensive, you need very little of it for this dish.
Heat all the oil in a large, heavy saucepan that has a lid.  Add the onion and sauté over medium heat until lightly browned.  Reduce the heat and add the rice. 

Stir the rice and onion to combine, and add the nutmeg, bay leaf, salt and broth.  Taste and add a little pepper--you can always add more later.  Add the saffron with its water and stir again.

I can't believe I actually had a whole nutmeg in the cupboard.  It came from a gift box I received from, my favorite source for spices.
Bring the rice mixture to a boil.  After it reaches a boil, reduce the heat and cover the pot.  Cook for approximately 15 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is the desired consistency.  In the last few minutes of cooking, add the pistachios.

Remove the bay leaf and serve.  Makes 4-6 side dish servings.


  1. Your Rosh Hashanah service does sound lovely and homey, and your pilaf looks delicious!

  2. The saffron rice looks fantastic! And yes I love the colour too.

  3. Looks delicious and Happy New Year!