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For most of my life, I thought rice pilaf came either from a small cardboard box or a steam table at my college cafeteria. It never occurred to me that it was something that could be made from scratch with just a few pantry ingredients.
Happily, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that a pilaf is a dish that can easily be made at home and without any packaging at all. When cooked from scratch, it bears more than a passing resemblance to risotto and goes well with all manner of saucy foods.
This time of year, I like to make a batch of oven-roasted ratatouille and spoon it over a layer of pilaf. The rice soaks up the juice and while other ingredients bring flavor and texture to the meal.
Right now, my go-to pilaf is Guy Fieri’s Basmati Rice Pilaf with Prosciutto, Garbanzo Beans and Orzo. The prosciutto lends a porky meatiness, while the garbanzo beans add light protein. It’s a perfect pairing and a quick summer meal just right for The Weekender.
Before you start cooking, read these tips:
— Make sure to use your heaviest-bottomed pot. Rice and orzo both have a tendency to stick when simmered, and they can burn in thinner cookware.
— If you’ve got vegetarians to feed, feel free to skip the prosciutto and switch the stock to veggie. There’s enough flavor going on here that you won’t miss the meat.
— Leftover pilaf is a boon to home cooks. Reheat it and top it with a poached egg for breakfast, or use it in a batch of Mediterranean fried rice.
Marisa McClellan is a food writer and canning teacher who lives in Center City Philadelphia. Find more of her food (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars. Her first cookbook, Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round, is now available.