Saturday, October 24, 2009

Brown Rice and Pasta Pilaf

If you suspect your family is not going to like brown rice, introduce it in a rice pilaf. This recipe will remind you of Rice-A-Roni*, a favorite of many a small tyke. The difference is the whole grain pasta, brown rice and a safe amount of sodium in an enhanced chicken broth that translates the flavors you remember from the packaged brand to a pure food in which you will recognize every ingredient. Nice additions like almonds, celery and mushrooms make this a complete side dish. A sweeter variation includes chopped, dried apricots or raisins. This tastes great cold too. I’m having it for lunch.

1 tablespoon butter and olive oil (1/2 tablespoon of each or 1 tablespoon of either)
2 celery stalks, sliced
1/2 medium onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 cup brown rice
1/3 cup sliced almonds
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon each turmeric and powdered thyme
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
black pepper to taste
1/5 package whole grain angel hair pasta like Barilla Plus
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped

In a large skillet, heat butter and oil and sauté mushrooms over medium heat. When mushrooms soften and begin to brown, add celery, onion and brown rice. Stir to coat rice in butter/oil and allow rice to cook until it becomes opaque. Push the mushrooms, celery and rice to side of pan and add almonds. Brown briefly. Add chicken broth and water and stir to combine. Lower heat and stir in turmeric, thyme, salt and pepper. Simmer, covered, 15 minutes.

Place pasta in a long plastic bag and close. Drag bag across edge of a counter, pressing down to break pasta into 1-2 inch pieces. Add paste to rice mixture, cover and simmer another 30 minutes. Check occasionally that liquid has not evaporated. Add more water if pilaf looks dry. When rice and pasta is tender, remove from heat and keep covered a few minutes to allow broth to be fully absorbed. Pilaf can stand, covered, for 15-20 minutes while the rest of the meal is completed.

For a vegetarian version, substitute water for chicken broth and add an extra 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

*Cooking pure foods does not have to cost more. You’ll pay around 40¢ a serving for Rice A Roni and 34¢ a serving for this version without the extra vegetables and nuts (which cost only 36¢ more per serving).