When I was young one of my favorite side dishes was rice pilaf. It came in a slim box with a portion of rice and a sachet of spices, dehydrated chicken stock – and goodness knows what else – all set to prepare with water on the stovetop. The results were addictive and exotically flavored. My brothers and I would fight over who got to finish the bowl on the dinner table; one box was never enough.
These days I make pilaf from scratch – and you probably do, too, without realizing it. The principle behind pilaf is that rice, or another grain such as bulgur, is sautéed then steamed in a flavorful broth, along with a few aromatics such as onion, garlic and spices. When it’s ready to serve, the rice is fluffed to separate the grains, and fresh herbs may be added for flavor and adornment. So before you reach for a box of pilaf in the supermarket with a long list of ingredients, remember that it’s really quite easy – and much cheaper – to make your own from scratch.
This recipe replaces rice with farro, and includes toasted almonds, lemon, mint and parsley. It makes a hefty pilaf, which is nutty, fresh and packed with protein and nutrients. Depending on how salty your stock is, adjust the amount of salt to taste. Serves 6 as a side dish.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 large shallot, finely chopped, about 1/4 cup
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 cups farro
2 1/4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
1/2 cup coarsely chopped toasted almonds (or pinenuts)
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 cup Italian parsley leaves, chopped
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add shallot and garlic and sauté until shallot begins to soften, 2 minutes. Add farro and stir to coat the grains. Carefully add the stock (it will bubbly vigorously), salt, pepper and cayenne. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer until the farro is tender but chewy and liquid is absorbed, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork. Transfer farro to a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, almonds and lemon zest and stir to combine. Cool slightly. Before serving mix in parsley and mint. Serve warm or at room temperature.