The pleasures of pilaf

Here's another excerpt from my cookbook in progress: Longevity Cuisine

For hundreds of years, cooks have been combining grains with a wide variety of sweet and savory ingredients, transforming their humble everyday staple into something special. Such dishes are called pilaf or pullao throughout India and the Middle East, where they grace the table at ordinary family meals as well as special feasts.

Basic pilaf is made by toasting long-grain rice in butter or oil, then boiling it in a flavorful stock. The toasting process develops a delicous nutty flavor in the grain. There are two other simple but essential techniques for great pilaf:

1) When the simmering time is finished, turn off the heat and don't remove the lid for the 5 to 10 minutes. The steam that has built up in the covered pan will continue to plump and separate the grains.

2) When you transfer the pilaf to a serving platter or bowl, use a couple of forks to "fluff" the grains, separating clumps and distribuing any ingredients that have settled on top.

When it's ready to serve, you can garnish the pilaf in any number of appetizing ways. Mound it on a pretty platter, then arrange sprigs of fresh herbs and cooked or raw vegetables on top and around it to brighten up the presentation...


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