In college, I had already been living in an apartment and cooking for myself for almost a year before I took a real interest in cooking, and shortly thereafter, I received America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook as a Christmas gift. Having grown a bit bored with living off basic chicken and rice dishes, green bean casserole, and tuna melts, I was super excited to try some new recipes, and this rice pilaf (or a similar version, anyway) was one of the first ones I tried. While I still have yet to find a recipe in the cookbook that I dislike, this rice pilaf remains one of my favorites to this day.
The original recipe calls for cinnamon and turmeric, but being fairly new to cooking when I received the book, I had yet to learn to recognize the distinctive hue (or scent) of turmeric. I would buy spices in these plastic pouches (they were cheaper than in the little bottles), but then often lost the accompanying packaging that identified the spice, so I picked the one that I thought looked most like turmeric and went with it.
Luckily, it still yielded a delicious end product, but once I realized that it was not, in fact, turmeric, it took me a while to figure out what it was – and I started to worry, as my supply of the mystery spice was running out, that I wouldn’t be able to reproduce my favorite rice dish if I couldn’t identify the spice! My dad was the one who, after performing a comparison smell test, determined that I had actually been using cumin. #rookiemistakes, right?
This cherry cashew rice pilaf is a little garlick-y, a little sweet (thanks to the cinnamon), a little savory (thanks to the cumin), and is studded with tart dried cherries (or cranberries) and salty cashews – it’s a smorgasbord of flavors in each bite! It’s also simple to make – as long as your spices are properly labeled 😉 – and I hope you love it as much as I do!
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup diced onion
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 1/2 cups white rice, rinsed and drained
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 1/4 cups water
- 1/3 cup dried cherries (or cranberries)
- 1/4 cup roasted cashews
- Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat for 1-2 minutes. Add the diced onions and salt. Sauté the onions until softened, about 5 minutes. In the meantime, rinse and drain the rice and measure out the cinnamon and cumin. Once the onions are softened, add the rice, cinnamon, cumin, and garlic, and sauté for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly to keep the rice from sticking to the bottom.
- Add the water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook, covered, for about 17 minutes, or until the water has been absorbed.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the dried cherries (or cranberries). Cover and let sit for 10 minutes. Fluff the rice, season with salt and pepper to taste, and top with cashews.