RICE PILAF: SO GOOD NO SAUCE IS NEEDED!
Rice is one of the most widely consumed staple foods for over half of the world’s population. Based on archeological evidence, rice was first domesticated (adapted from its wild grassy state to become edible) in China in 8000 B.C.
Until I started researching the origin of rice, I didn’t realize how this process from so long-ago impacted life around the world. Once people figured out that this grass could be cultivated and adapted to provide sustenance, people started changing from nomadic hunter-gathers into stay-at-home farmers. This domestication of rice helped societies become connected, more densely populated, and urbanized.
Hubby Allen always liked rice, but he always wanted a sauce from the main dish to drizzle over it. That is certainly true for most of us, since there really is not much flavor in rice on its own. Like a blank canvas, it needs splashes and splotches to perk it up and make it more interesting. You can see the diced vegetables, stock and lemon in the photo above that adds interest, more texture, and flavor to Lemon Rice Pilaf.
I always thought the prepackaged rice mixes had more flavor than my regular rice, but they also had so much sodium that I really did not enjoy them. They are just wa-a-a-ay too salty! So, I developed this Lemon Rice Pilaf that is tasty and not too salty. It is flavorful enough to be eaten without sauce. Even my 5-year-old granddaughter loves this rice dish all by itself.
Sauté some aromatics in butter and/or olive oil—I usually use my own triumvirate of carrots, celery, and garlic. Chopped onions are great here, also. I used vegan butter and left out onions, so son Karl could eat the pilaf, also. I use more butter than I normally would for sautéing the chopped vegetables, because I also wanted the butter to coat the rice and orzo that I would add later.
After the vegetables start to soften, add the rest of the butter and stir in the rice and orzo. Stir the mixture until the individual grains are well coated. Add the stock and bring it all to a boil. Turn the heat down to low and let it simmer with the lid on until the rice is cooked. Don’t lift the lid to stir it and check on it. Stirring activates the starch and makes it gloppy. That is fine for risotto or sticky rice for sushi, but not for regular long grain rice.
You will see “pockmarks” on top when it is cooked enough, and all of the moisture is absorbed. The vegetables will have risen to the top, also. You can also taste it to make sure it is cooked through. Fluff it with a fork and mix the veggies back in as you turn it out into a bowl. This side dish is great with any barbecued meat, chicken or fish.
Lemon Rice Pilaf
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup each chopped carrots, celery, onion
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 cup long-grain rice (white or brown)
- 2 tablespoons orzo, preferably whole wheat
- 2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
- juice and zest of a large lemon (approximately 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice and 1 tablespoon lemon zest)
- fresh parsley, and lemon slice, optional
Melt half the butter in a heavy saucepan, and add the chopped carrots, celery, onions. Stir occasionally and cook until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring for an additional minute.
Put the 2nd tablespoon of butter in the pan, allow it to melt, then stir in the rice and orzo. Add the stock, bring to a boil. Stir it all, turn heat to low until it simmers. Cover pan and let it simmer until rice is cooked. Do not lift the cover or stir it anymore. Let the rice cook about 30 minutes for white rice, 50-60 minutes for brown rice.
Add lemon juice and zest; stir with a fork to combine and fluff pilaf. Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley, and garnish with a lemon slice, if desired.