Wednesday, April 21, 2010


The following suggestion to prepare rice with eggplant is truly a surprise. One of my favorite ways to serve rice in the Spring with roasted lamb. This is traditionally they way Armenians cook and prefer to eat rice which is completely different preparation. The next rice recipe will give more light into the “mystery of rice cooking”.

1 medium eggplant cut into ½ inch cubes
¼ cup olive oil
1 medium size onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves
¼ cup cup raisins or dried cranberries
pinch of cardamon
1 large tomato, finely chopped
¼ cup fresh dill, chopped
¼ cup chopped pistachios
Persian rice with pistachios and dill

The very special thing about this way of cooking rice is that you end up with a rice crust on the bottom of the pan that enhances the entire meal. The crunch crust called Tah-dig in Farsi language, is considered by many the prize of gifted cook. In this specific recipe it revealed by the surprise of pistachios, whose natural sweetness is brought out by the fresh dill.

First prepare the rice and allow it to wait while you prepare the eggplant

2 cups basmati rice
5 cups water
3 tsp salt
3 tbs unsalted butter
1/3 cups chopped fresh dill
½ cup coarsely chopped pistachios
Rinse rice in cold water. Bring water and salt to a boil in a heavy pot and barboil rice for about 9-12 minutes. Rice should be almost cooked, al dente. Drain very well in sieve and rinse with cold water. Melt butter in bottom of a heavy set non stiking pan and place an Arabic flat pita. Spoon rice over it, alternating if you choose with part of the pistachios and dill. End with rice. Make 5-6 holes in rice with handle of a wooden spoon, cover with a clean kitchen towel and a heavy lid. Fold edges of towel up over lid and cook rice over low low heat for another
30 minutes or until you can smell almonds toasting. Spoon lose rice onto a platter and dip bottom of pan in a large bowl of cold

Another variation is to omit the layers of pistachios and add them on top along with safran, pine nuts and tart berries or dried barberries.
Remove the crust and brake on top of the mounted rice.

Now prepare the eggplant. In a heavy sauté pan, heat the olive oil and sauté the onions and garlic. Add the eggplant cubes and continue sautéing until tender, yet not cooked all the way through. Turn the heat to low, cover the pan, and allow the eggplant to steam for 10 more minutes. Uncover and add the cardamom, salt and pepper.
Another variation is to add on top, chopped tomatoes, parsley, green onions.

Now you are ready to assemble this simple, but most delicious dish. By now the rice should have a beautiful blonde crust on the bottom and smell like toasted almonds. Spoon the rice in a large platter and arrange some of the crusty on top. Then add the eggplant in a lengthwise fashion. Add the chopped tomatoes, dill, and pistachios on top.
Kali orexi (bon appétit)

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