Today's recipe is basically my home-made rendition of that ubiquitous supermarket staple, Near East rice pilaf mix. Dear to the hearts of American grocery shoppers, the classic original version is pretty old-school, without superfluous fripperies like nuts, raisins, dates, saffron, or exotic grains to complicate the situation. And that is exactly what I offer here: with just rice, orzo, chopped onion and celery, a handful of basic spices, and some decent broth, this recipe is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser that makes a perfect accompaniment to other Middle Eastern dishes, and a damned fine snack all on its own. (Even as a nightmarishly picky toddler, my youngest son would never turn down a dish of pilaf, and I've been known to make a meal of it myself more than once!)
Old-Fashioned Rice Pilaf
~ 1.5 cups basmati rice
~ ½ cup orzo
~ 1 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 small yellow onion, diced
~ 2 stalks celery, diced
~ ½ tsp. each: salt, thyme, sage, white pepper
~ ¼ tsp. turmeric
~ 2 tbsp. nutritional yeast
~ ½ cup chopped, fresh parsley
~ 2 ¾ cups vegan "chicken" broth
~ Rinse the rice in several changes of water, and then set aside aside to soak for at least 30 minutes (an hour or so is even better).
~ In a saucepan, sauté the onion, celery, and dry seasonings in the olive oil over medium heat for 5-7 minutes, until soft. Add a little more oil or a splash of water or broth if things get sticky.
~ Drain the rice and add it to the pan along with the orzo, nutritional yeast, and fresh parsley. Stir well, cook another minute or two, and pour in the broth.
~ Cover the pan, bring to a boil, and lower the heat to simmer.
~ Cook over low heat for 12-15 minutes, or until all the broth is absorbed and the rice is still a bit firm but fluffy (the longer you've soaked it, the more quickly it will cook).
~ Remove from heat, fluff with a fork, and serve.