Growing up, I was raised by a rotating crew of relatives while my parents worked. When it came to dinner, each family member had their own specialty. When I think about my mama (my grandmother on my dad’s side), I can remember her soy sauce braise chicken and shiitake mushrooms simmering on the stove top. My aunt favored lighter dishes, and often times made us steamed fish with scallion and ginger. I can vividly remember a period in my life when I ate pan fried pork chops at least three times a week when my gongong (grandpa on my mom’s side) lived with us.
Even though each relative had their own special dish, what always remained constant was a heaping bowl of white rice and a plate of steamed veggies (usually Chinese Broccoli served with oyster sauce).
To this day, the combination of rice and veggies is still a staple in my diet, a gastronomical routine that brings me comfort, especially during a busy work day. When I’m cooking lunches for the week to bring to the office, it’s no wonder that I usually gravitate towards grain bowls. I like to make mine with brown rice, topped with a smattering of roasted/steamed/raw/pickled vegetables that I have in the fridge at any given time.
To spice things up, I’ve been experimenting with different brown rice pilafs as my base. I’ve continually come back to this one: it’s super easy to make and so pretty! Now that it’s October, I’ve been seeing these big red pomegranates pop up at my local produce market and want incorporate them into everything.
This pilaf is also so versatile – I ate it all last week at work topped with honey roasted carrots, lemon cumin roasted cauliflower, and some lightly pickled red cabbage. I’ve served it alone at dinner parties. I’ve swapped out the parsley and lemon for cilantro and lime for taco night (so good in a lightly roasted flour tortilla with black beans, radishes and salsa). This week, I’ve packed it for lunch along with some garlicky sauteed kale, red wine braised mushrooms with rosemary and thyme, black/kideney beans and honey balsamic roasted brussel sprouts (pictured above).
This isn’t anything like a proper Iranian jeweled rice by any means. The “jewels” here simply refer to the pomegranate seeds, which really do look like little rubies. Even though the original is delicious (and currently on my list to try making at home), from what I understand it’s pretty labor and ingredient intensive. This one comes together quickly with simple ingredients, perfect for l ate Sunday evenings or mid-week meal prepping.
Pomegranate Jeweled Brown Rice Pilaf
*depending on the harvest, pomegranates are in season from september through february (northern hemisphere
1 small onion
3 cloves garlic
seeds of 1/2 pomegranate
1 cup brown rice
2 cups vegetable broth
zest & juice of 1/2 lemon
handful of parsley
1 jalapeno (optional)
1 tbs taco seasoning – okay, let me let you in on a little secret. 4/5 times when i’m making this I like to use store bought taco seasoning. It’s a huge time saver! I like to use the Trader Joe’s taco mix packets personally. If you want to go through the process of making your own, here’s a recipe I’ve used before that works well:
– 1 tbs chili powder
– 1/4 tsp garlic powder
– 1/4 tsp onion powder
– 1/2 tsp dried oregano
– 1/2 tsp paprika
– 1 1/2 tsp cumin
– 1 tsp salt
– 1 tsp black pepper
Dice 1 small onion (or 1/2 large onion)and sautee in a big pot with olive oil until translucent. Stir in minced garlic and jalapeno and sautee for 2 ish minutes before garlic is fully browned. Seasonw with salt, pepper and 1 tbs of taco seasoning. Add 1 cup of brown rice and toast so the edges of the grains turn golden brown and the rice absorbs the olive oil. Pour in 2 cups of vegetable broth and simmer for a half an hour to 45 minutes until the rice fully absorbs all the liquid. Keep an eye on this towards the end to make sure the rice on the bottom doesn’t start burning!
Once the rice is fully cooked and slightly cooled, add in a handful of chopped parsley, the zest and juice of one lemon (start with half and see if you need more), and the pomegranate seeds. I usually like to add more seasoning here to taste.