Tonight, Firat and I were craving something simple and delicious. I’ve also been spending more time learning about Turkish dishes because I know he misses the flavors of home. I’ve been especially attached to the cookbook “Turquoise: A Chef’s travels in Turkey” by Greg and Lucy Malouf. It’s part travel memories, part photo-journal, mostly killer cookbook. What’s impressed me most about this book, is that the chefs have created recipes that replicate true Turkish flavors, while still using easy-to-find ingredients. So tonight I decided to make tomato pilaf, which has a special place in my heart, because it was the first Turkish dish Firat cooked for me when we started dating.
This recipe is crazy yum. It makes a spectacular side dish for 4 people, or, much like a risotto, can stand alone as well as a generous entree for 2. Its incredibly flavorful, considering most of the ingredients come out of your pantry. Here’s the Malouf’s recipe with just a couple tiny adjustments on my end.
1 cup basmati rice
3-4 very ripe roma tomatoes, skinned and roughly chopped (don’t forget the trick of blanching tomatoes in boiling water for an easy peel job)
3/4 cup chicken stock or vegetable stock
4 tbsp butter
1 shallot, finely diced
2 tsp tomato paste
1 tsp lemon juice
1 sprig of fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp dried thyme
salt and pepper
Wash the rice in a bowl under cold running water. Work your fingers through it to loosen the starch off the rice. Once the water is clear, drain and set aside.
Pulse the tomatoes into a rough puree (like a salsa) in the food processor. You should get about 1 1/4 cups of tomato puree. Add enough stock to make 2 cups of liquid. Pour into a small saucepan and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and keep at a low simmer.
Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the shallot and saute over medium-low heat until the shallots become soft, about 3-4 minutes. Add the tomato paste, lemon zest, and thyme and stir to combine evenly (the tomato paste likes to be difficult here, so make sure there’s no lumps).
Add the rice to the pan and season generously with salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly, allowing all the grains to be coated in the butter. Stir over medium heat for just a couple minutes, allowing the rice to toast. Pour in the simmering tomato stock and stir to combine. This should come to a boil almost immediately since you kept the liquid hot. Cover, and cook over the lowest heat setting for 15 minutes. The grains should be plumped up and the surface will be dented with little steam vent holes. Remove the pan from heat, then slide a clean, folded tea towel under the lid and leave it to stand for another 15-20 minutes. When ready to serve, fluff with a fork, and savor the yum.