GREEN RICE

GREEN RICE
Reprinted with permission from Lucid Food: Cooking for an Eco-Conscious Life by Louisa Shafia, Copyright © 2009. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.

Makes 6 cups

My Iranian father is infamous for knowing how to make one single dish: rice cooked with lentils, dill, and spices. Rice is ubiquitous in Persian cooking, and there are many elaborate variations that include dried fruit, fresh herbs, nuts, and beans. This version is green and aromatic.

2 cups long-grain basmati rice
Salt
1 teaspoon saffron threads or powder
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 leeks, green and white parts, finely diced
1 teaspoon dried lime powder, or 1 preserved whole lime (see Note at end of recipe)
1 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 cup minced fresh cilantro
1/3 cup minced fresh dill
1 cup shelled, toasted pistachios

1. Put the rice in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Toss the rice with your hands a few times to remove the starch, and drain. Repeat this process five times. Set aside.

2. Pour 3-1/2 cups water in a small pot with a dash of salt and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, put the saffron in a small bowl with 2 tablespoons of water. Stir and set aside.

3. Heat a large pot over medium-high heat and add the oil. Add the leeks and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the rice, saffron water, and lime powder or whole preserved lime and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes. Pour the boiling water over the rice, bring the rice to a boil, then decrease the heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the rice stand, covered, for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork. If the whole lime was used, discard.

4. Transfer the rice to a large bowl and fold in the parsley, cilantro, dill, and most of the pistachios. Season with salt. To serve, pile the rice on a platter and scatter a few pistachios over the top.

Note: Dried limes have a distinctly sour, herbal taste specific to Persian food. Whole of powdered dried limes can be found at Middle Eastern markets on online from Ethnic Foods Company (www.ethnicfoodsco.com), Kalustyan's (www.kalustyans.com), and Phoenicia Specialty Foods (www.phoeniciafoods.com). If you can't find them, the rice can be cooked with 2 teaspoons of lemon zest and seasoned with 2 tablespoons of lemon juice right before serving.

LYNNE'S TIPS
Give this idea of folding fresh herbs into cooked rice another take by borrowing the concept of red rice from Carolina Low Country tradition. Sauté bacon and onions in a little oil. Spoon off excess fat, add a minced garlic clove and the 2 cups of long grain rice, a 14-ounce can of whole tomatoes, pureed, and 3 cups of water. Cook as directed above, and when done, fold in 1 cup each of snipped chives and torn basil.

THOUGHTS FROM LYNNE
It may not look like spring in some parts of the country but it has officially arrived, and Easter is not far off. I ran onto this traditional Good Friday recipe while browsing a copy of Amy's Bread, Revised and Updated: Artisan-style Breads, Sandwiches, Pizzas, and More from New York City's Favorite Bakery by Amy Scherber and Toy Kim Dupree (Wiley, 2010).

Don't be intimidated by the length of the recipe. Just follow the instructions and tips.