Who spilled Cabernet on the rice?
My veggie delivery box again included beetroot, which is what the British call beets. I'm not a particularly big fan of beets, or of beetroot. As my daughter says, they taste like the ground. Beetroot is very popular in Britain, however, probably because no one's noticed they taste like compost. That bright red colour must act as camouflage. I kept thinking of Chinese sweet-and-sour while eating this pilaf.
If your tastebuds aren't deceived by the groovy hot pink shade, try substituting plain old inoffensive carrots in this recipe. You can just chop them and add them with the other ingredients.
American tastebuds may also find za'atar unfamiliar, but don't let the extra punctuation in the name put you off. This Middle Eastern spice mix is easy to like. If you can't find it at your Middle Eastern grocery, try making your own. There are several recipes on the web. It does call for sumac, though, and since that also would require a trip to the Middle Eastern market, I recommend trying to find the mix itself. Easy for me to say; Middle Eastern markets are sixpence a dozen in London.
And beetroot, too, is all too easy to find, particularly this summer, when floods have ruined other, more edible, crops, like broccoli.
Here's a nice slogan for you enviros: Global Warming: Tastes like beetroot.
Roasted Beetroot Rice Pilaf with Za’atar
4 or 5 beets (beetroot)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 shallots, chopped
2 teaspoons za’atar spice mix
1 cinnamon stick
¼ cup sliced almonds
6 dried apricots, chopped
¼ cup raisins
1 bay leaf
1 ½ cup rice
3 ½ cups water
Scrub and if necessary, peel beets. Slice into quarters, then slice the quarters in half, making approximately ¾ inch pieces. Wrap in aluminum foil that’s been sprayed with cooking spray and place in hot oven, about 400F/200C. Roast for 25 minutes, then remove from oven.
Meanwhile, heat olive oil in large skillet or saucepan. Add shallot and sauté for a minute or two. Stir the za'atar into the mixture. Add cinnamon stick and almonds, letting the almonds fry in the oil for a minute, then add remaining ingredients: apricots, raisins, bay leaf, rice, water, salt, and the chopped roasted beets. Stir to combine, then cover the pan and let simmer over lowest heat setting, for about 20 minutes or until water is absorbed. Fluff with a fork.
Remove cinnamon stick and bay leaf before serving.
Notes on ingredients:
Za’atar is a Middle Eastern spice mix. You can find it in Middle Eastern markets, or you can make the mixture yourself.
If you prefer not to use beets, substitute chopped carrots. The results will not be so red, but will also not taste like the earth.