I suppose it comes as no surprise that I keep a stocked pantry. When I say pantry, I mean staples that can be found in the cupboard, the refrigerator and the freezer. These days, I’ve been making a lot of what I call “Pantry Pilafs.” Hearty and satisfying, they can be served hot or cold, over greens as a complete meal, or play side kick to a larger meal.
Here are some guidelines to get you started!
Start with a base. I typically rely on quinoa, brown rice, jasmine rice, wild rice, barley or farro. Always season your cooking water! You can use broth or add all-purpose seasoning mix to the cooking water, but at the very least, use salted water (it should taste like the ocean).
Add a bean or legume. I usually add garbanzo beans, black beans, cannellini beans, or lentils.
Add a fruit/vegetable. This is where I start looking to leftovers to add flavor, texture and color. I like adding roasted vegetables, chopped spinach or kale, diced cucumber, halved cherry tomatoes, chopped apple, or chopped green onions. You could also add frozen peas or corn.
Add fresh herbs. When you’ve got them, fresh herbs such as chopped basil, parsley, or cilantro make a lovely addition to a pilaf.
Add a dried fruit. When you want a little something sweet and chewy, dried cranberries, raisins, golden raisins, dried figs, chopped dates and chopped dried apricots are great additions to a pilaf.
Add a toasted nut or seed. You can toast a small amount of nuts over medium heat in a frying pan on the stovetop. Watch it, they toast quickly. I typically use pecans, walnuts or pine nuts. If you’ve got them, pistachios and pepitas are good options here.
Consider adding cheese. If I use cheese, it’s almost always crumbled feta or shaved Parmesan.
Dress your pilaf. More often then not, I simply use lemon juice, olive oil, salt & pepper to make a pilaf sing. Depending on what you’re making, salsa can be used as a dressing, as can any other kind of bottled salad dressing or homemade vinaigrette.
HERE’S A TIP: It helps to have a plan. For example, are you craving Mexican food? Make a pilaf incorporating quinoa, black beans, corn, green onions and salsa. Want something nutty? Try barley with green onions, toasted walnuts, and shaved parmesan cheese dressed in lemon juice and olive oil. Maybe something a little sweet? Combine rice with garbanzo beans, chopped dried apricots, chopped spinach and toasted pine nuts. Yum.
Pictured below is a pilaf made with quinoa, lentils, chopped kale, toasted walnuts and green onions. It’s dressed in lemon juice and olive oil. Delicious!