While this rice is super versatile and tastes great as a backdrop for whatever else you’ve decided to grace your plate, it also shines on its own with its savory, carby goodness. I’ve been known to eat only this for a meal cuz it tastes just that good. Did mention that I lurrrrve starchy foods? I consider rice pilaf to be a Western version of 炊き込み御飯 (takikomi gohan) or Japanese mixed rice as they’re both cooked in a savory broth and surprise, surprise I love them both! I chose mushrooms and kale in this version cuz they both stand up well to simmering giving you some texture to contrast with the tender rice. They also have (for vegetables) a lower liquid content which means they won’t make your pilaf mushy. The visual color contrast is a pleasant perk too. And besides adding a nice crunch, almonds have effectively 5% less calories than we thought they did, so w00t! (We’ll just ignore why there’s 5% less, ‘kay?)
Tricks for the tricksters: 😉
1) I find it easier and faster to cook this in a large (~10-inch) sauté pan rather than a large saucepan or pot. Why? With more cooking surface area, the rice cooks faster and there’s less of a tendency for it to get mushy. It’s also easier to stir in your almonds at the end without having to worry about digging deep and flipping rice out of the pot which means more rice in my belly!
2) Do I really need saffron? Nope, this’ll taste yummy without it. But if you do have some lying around, it does add another layer to the flavor, sort of a subtle earthiness but not in a bad, “I’ve just had some topsoil crudités” type of way. Be careful not to add more than a pinch cuz as with all herbs, a little tastes like dinner and too much tastes medicinal.
3) What if my rice is mushy? Hmm, when cooking rice on the stove, you usually need a 2:1 liquid to rice ratio (assuming you don’t have a lot of veggies in there too which will add more liquid on their own). The mushrooms and kale are relatively dry as veggies go so sometimes if your heat is too low/not at a simmer you can end up with soupy rice. Conversely, if your rice is still firm and on the drier side you can add another 1/4 c of water and lower the heat so that the liquid is just simmering. Can you sense that simmering is the key here? 🙂
4) How do you wash and slice mushrooms without losing a thumb? Yeah, mushrooms get pretty slippery once you’ve washed them so I like to slice my mushrooms first and then wash them afterwards. Traction problem solved, thumbs intact.
3 c vegetable or chicken stock (I used Better Than Bouillon Mushroom Base cuz what goes better with mushrooms than mushroom stock?)
1 pinch (~20 threads) saffron
1 tbsp butter **if cooking vegan substitute another tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
4 oz mushrooms, stemmed and in 1/2-inch slices (I used baby portobellos)
1 1/2 c jasmine or other long-grain rice
6 leaves kale, large veins removed and torn into 1-inch pieces
1/4 c slivered almonds, toasted
Crumble saffron into broth and set aside.
Heat butter and oil in a large sauté pan or ~2 quart pot with a lid over medium heat till butter and foam subsides ~1 minute. Sauté onions till tender and translucent ~3 minutes then add mushrooms and kale and sauté for another ~3 minutes till mushroom are tender and kale is wilted. Stir in rice to coat with oil and toast the rice ~1-2 minutes. Add broth, cover, and simmer on med-lo for ~15-20 minutes till rice is tender. Serves 4.