Give some delight to your senses and use fresh herbs when you cook. I love to serve saffron rice with either a garnish of chopped herbs and onions, or an assortment of two or more fresh herbs on the side… parsley, mint, cilantro, oregano, basil, marjoram., dill, green onions…. these are all simply delicious when chopped or torn into small pieces… and a perfect complement to each bite.
As mentioned in my previous post, A Little Lesson in Saffron, to get the most out of your saffron, before cooking soak it for a few hours or overnight in milk. For 1 cup of rice you would use a pinch of saffron (10-15 threads). Since I planned on making more than that, I used a large pinch (probably about 30 threads). I was also making my saffron rice out of a sudden desire (I’m just mad about saffron!), so these lovely threads would only soak for 30-45 minutes. If they were to sit out the whole night or all day, the milk would be a luscious yellow (and my resulting rice dish would have a lovely warm golden hue). Throwing caution to the wind, I filled a glass with a cup of whole milk and added my generous pinch of saffron and then let it soak while I started to prepare the other ingredients.First I measured out 2 cups of basmati rice and rinsed the rice 3 or 4 times with cold water. All you have to do is put the rice in a deep plastic container, bowl, or other pan and cover amply with cold water, swish it around, and pour off the water. Repeat several times until the water looks a lot clearer (it will probably never look “clear”). Most of what you are rinsing off is starch. Then pour the rice into a big strainer for the rest of the water to drain off and let the rice dry up a bit before adding to the pot.
I wanted to make saffron rice, but what else to cook with it? I knew there was a basket of mushrooms in the fridge and pulled them out. Boy, when I bought these mushrooms 2 days earlier they were fresh. What happened? I gave them a quick rinse and patted them dry (or you can just wipe them clean with a damp paper towel or cloth). These were not perfect gorgeous mushrooms, but they would be fine, and I sliced them up, along with half of a green bell pepper.
In a few moments the peppers were in my wok and sizzling in a bit of olive oil. My thought was to saute the mushrooms and bell peppers and then cook them with the rice and saffron milk. Then I would add some chopped herbs and julienned veggies while the rice was still hot.
Mmmm. It was already tasting good.I pulled out my nifty julienne peeler (Love!) and got to work on a nice organic carrot. Next was a bunch of scallions and a half bunch of cilantro.I wanted everything ready to add to the rice when it was done and still nice and warm. You could use any vegetable you like, either finely diced, grated, or in 2-3″ julienne strips. Time to add the mushrooms to the peppers and let them saute a little. I sprinkled them with some salt to draw out some water and let that cook away.Now just to finish chopping up some cilantro (fresh parsley, dill, and/or mint would also be perfect). My raw ingredients would be ready in their little bowls when time to throw them in the mix.
Next I added the rice, which had fully drained and soaked up the bit of water still hanging on, so the rice wasn’t “wet” anymore. Frying or dry-toasting basmati rice brings out its flavor. It doesn’t “fry” as well when it’s wet (sticks a little, but don’t let that stop you in a pinch), so letting it drain and dry up a bit is helpful. Into the wok went the rice, over a medium-high flame, and I stirred it pretty frequently until it was getting slightly toasty (the aroma of toasting basmati rice btw is wonderful).
Now it was time to add the saffron milk, which by this time had soaked at least a half hour. Still on high flame, it must be heated to the boiling point. Then the lid goes on, the heat goes down, and it steams for 12 minutes. I just want to say that this would look a lot more appetizing at this point if it was a little more yellow. My bad for not soaking the saffron longer :-)
For perfect rice every time, use a timer. After bringing liquid to a boil with rice let it simmer about a minute, then cover and turn the heat to low. Set timer for 12 minutes. After 12 minutes remove from heat but do not uncover yet. Set your timer for 5 minutes and let the rice sit covered, off the heat. After 5 minutes, remove the cover and lightly break apart and turn the rice with a fork. After I tossed the saffron rice a little, I added the carrots, onions and cilantro. Mmmm!
Gently combine and garnish with some more chopped onions and herbs. Soooo good! This would make a heavenly meal served with a nice green salad (made with your fave trimmings) drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice and a sprinkling of freshly ground pepper) and baked marinated tofu on the side. Oh, my Mother, I’m in ecstasy!
Saffron Rice with Mushrooms and Herbs
Yield: 4-6 servings
This dish can serve as a side or main dish. You can make it heartier by adding some cubed tofu to the mushrooms and peppers while they saute, or adding some cooked garbanzo beans or white/navy beans at the end with the green onions and herbs. Enjoy!
1 cup whole milk (or substitute with other unsweetened milk)
20-30 strands Spanish saffron
2 cups basmati rice, rinsed and drained
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 whole small or half large bell pepper chopped in large dice
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
2-1/2 cups water
1 carrot, grated or in 2-3″ julienne
6-7 green onions, finely chopped (reserve 2-3 Tbsp)
3/4 cup chopped cilantro (leaves and tender stems), parsley, mint, dill, or other herbs
Place milk in glass or bowl and add saffron. Let stand overnight or at least for several hours. It is fine to gently stir it once in a while, but not necessary.
30-45 minutes before serving time, begin to prepare the rice:
Rinse rice and drain. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in saute pan or wok (with lid) over medium high flame and add chopped bellpepper. Saute 2-3 minutes and add sliced mushrooms and garlic. Sprinkle with salt. Stir and saute another 4-5 minutes until the mushrooms are soft and water released from mushrooms is reduced and cooked out. Add the drained rice and stir, over high heat, for about 2 minutes, scraping bottom of pan with your spoon to prevent sticking.
Now add the saffron milk and water. Bring to a boil, adjust heat to medium and simmer for 1-2 minutes. Then cover and turn to very low. Steam undisturbed for 12 minutes. Keep covered and remove from heat and let sit undisturbed for 5 minutes. Light break up steamed rice with fork. Adjust seasoning with salt. Add chopped green onions, carrot, and herbs. Mix lightly. Turn onto serving platter and garnish with reserved chopped onions and/or herbs. Squeeze lemon juice over top (or serve with lemon wedges).