Simple Side Dish: Rice Pilaf with Raisins and Pine Nuts

Pilaf with Raisins and Pine Nuts

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a side dish recipe and since I’ve been making a lot of rice lately, I decided to share one of my recent favorites recipes with you.

Although our house was packed up last week, we still have lots of pantry items that need to be used up or given away in the next week and a half before we board the plane back to the states. Basmati rice happens to be one of those pantry items that I’m trying to use up!

Since I also have a box of raisins in my pantry as well as a few little bags of pine nuts in my freezer, I decided to try to recreate a rice pilaf from a really good Turkish restaurant that we like here in Catania. Justin and I were taken there last week by my co-workers for a farewell dinner and I was reminded how much I love one of their rice dishes. My favorite thing on the menu is the buttery pilaf with raisins and pine nuts.

It’s a very simple rice and the main flavor I could pick out, besides the nuts and raisins, was butter. And I know that they use a lot of butter in the dish because when a single grain of rice fell on the table at the restaurant, the grease spot that soaked the tablecloth was enormous! I wanted to create something that could be eaten more than once a year without guilt so I didn’t use as much butter as I thought the original dish probably contained!

I decided that browning the butter would intensify the flavor allowing me to use less butter but still keep a very satisfying buttery taste. But you know me, I didn’t skimp on the butter that much!

Since I really don’t know much about cooking rice and I know even less about Turkish food, I decided to check some Turkish food blogs for pointers. My favorite is Binnur’s Turkish Cookbook and it was there that I found a recipe for a Basic Turkish Rice Pilaf.

I used Binnur’s Pilaf as a general guideline for preparing this rice but I also took some rice cooking tips from an Indian cookbook, Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cooking. Like I said, I’ve never known much about preparing rice other than the directions that come on the back of whatever package I buy at the store. But one time I made the spiced basmati rice out of Jaffrey’s book and I swear it was 100 times better than any rice that has ever come from my kitchen!

So, like I said, I put together the rice cooking tips from those two sources, did some experimenting with amounts of butter and cooking liquid, and came up with the following recipe which I think tastes very similar to what I was trying to recreate.

Although the recipe looks long, it’s really pretty simple. I just got a little ‘wordy’ when I was typing it out!

Rice Pilaf with Raisins and Pine Nuts

1 C. basmati rice
hot tap water
1/3 C. raisins
2 T. plus 1 T. butter
1 1/4 C. water (or chicken broth)
1/2 t. kosher salt (see note)
1/4 C. pine nuts

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put rice in a large bowl and fill with water. Swirl rice around then pour out water, holding rice back with one hand. Repeat this process several times until water is fairly clear. Cover rinsed rice with hot tap water and allow to soak for 15 minutes. At this point, put the raisins in a separate small bowl and cover them with hot tap water also. After 15 minutes, drain as much water as possible from the rice (using a mesh strainer if you have one). Also drain the raisins and set aside.

2. In an ovenproof saucepan (one without rubber handles on pot or lid), heat 2 T. butter over medium-low heat. Allow the butter to brown just slightly, then scrape drained rice into the saucepan. Stir to coat with butter and saute for about two minutes, stirring constantly, or until the rice turns opaque and a few grains are just starting to color. Pour the water (or chicken broth) and salt into the pot, stir, taste, and add more salt if necessary. Bring broth just to a simmer then cover the top of the pot with aluminum foil and then put the lid on top of the foil (the foil creates a tighter seal). Place pot in the oven and bake for 20 minutes.

3. While rice is in the oven, heat the remaining tablespoon of butter in a small saucepan and allow to brown. When the butter starts to brown, add the pine nuts and cook just until the nuts have turned golden brown. Immediately scrape nuts and butter into a small bowl to stop them from browning too much.

4. After 20 minutes, remove the pot of rice from oven. Remove lid and foil, place a clean dish towel over the top of the pot and replace lid. Allow to sit for 5 more minutes. Next, gently scrape rice into a serving bowl and stir in the raisins, nuts and browned butter. Serve immediately.

Serves four as a side dish.

Recipe Notes:

– I used basmati rice but feel free to use any type of long grain white rice.
– I’ve made this recipe with both water and chicken broth. The chicken broth adds a touch more flavor but water works just fine!
– If you use chicken broth instead of water, reduce the amount of added salt in the recipe. Try starting with a quarter teaspoon then taste it and add more if necessary. If using sea salt or table salt instead of kosher, start with a little less than I recommend. It’s easier to add salt later than take it away!
– You can use any type of raisins in this recipe. Golden raisins might look nicer but I used regular dark ones.

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  1. Ruby

    This dish look delicious! I love rice, and it happens to be Emma’s favorite. She would take a bowl of rice over McDonalds cheeseburgers anyday! (weird 3 year old)
    Oddly enough, I spent the weekend with my Mom and Aunts at a hotel/casino (my Mom turns 60 on Wednesday!) We were talking about old times and how much we miss my Grandmother’s Arroz con Leche. I’m not sure if I ever made it for you, it’s very much like rice pudding…mmmmmm. She made it with sweet condensed milk, raisins and lots of love! Was a perfect dish with cafe’ for the cold foggy mornings here in the valley!
    I have never had pine nuts in my rice pilaf, just almonds so this recipe sounds very unique! 🙂

    6:06 pm  Nov 5th, 2007
  2. Nicole

    Ruby: You’ve never made the arroz con leche for me but you’re going to have to make it for next time I visit now that you’ve told me about it! I love rice pudding! I’m sure this rice would be good with almonds rather than pine nuts (and would be more affordable) but I think the pine nuts are really great in here!

    6:57 pm  Nov 5th, 2007
  3. VeggieGirl

    Simple side dish? Au contraire, Nicole – this looks like a SENSATIONAL side dish – yum!!

    10:12 pm  Nov 5th, 2007
  4. Kalyn

    It sounds wonderful to me. I might make this with cranberries instead of raising too!

    1:06 am  Nov 6th, 2007
  5. Nabeela

    I made a very similar Indian saffrom pulao that has raisins in it too….actually Indian Mughlai cuisine draws heavily from Middle-east cuisine…so I’m not surprised my pulao is similar to yours 🙂

    9:10 am  Nov 6th, 2007
  6. chefjp

    Great recipe Nicole–I’ve had a variation on this wherein just before serving, the cook drizzles just a little malt vinegar over the pilaf. Loved your version. Good luck in the Weblog awards!

    12:36 pm  Nov 6th, 2007
  7. Nicole

    VeggieGirl: Ok, I agree…simple to prepare but definitely a sensational taste 🙂

    Kalyn: I was actually thinking of doing the same thing! I thought about trying this maybe with slivered almonds and cranberries, perhaps with brown rice, for Thanksgiving 🙂

    Nabeela: Yum, that sounds good!

    ChefJP: Thanks! I love vinegar so that actually sounds really good to me!

    1:57 pm  Nov 6th, 2007
  8. Patricia Scarpin

    This would be a hit here in Brazil, Nic – we love rice!

    2:21 pm  Nov 6th, 2007
  9. shivapriya

    Delicious, one of my favs. And those Autumn pictures looks beautiful. Long back I posted vegetable pilaf.

    8:05 pm  Nov 7th, 2007
  10. KimdaCook

    Lovely side dish, can one leave out the raisins, as I am not to fond of them??

    12:47 am  Oct 22nd, 2008
  11. Nicole

    KimdaCook: Yes, you could definitely leave out the raisins!

    9:23 am  Oct 22nd, 2008
  12. Jan Mt Pleasant

    Please . . . don’t encourage folks to use hot tap water to cook with. There is lead in the piples and hot water picks up much more lead and other contaminants during its journey to the faucet than cold water. And boiling hot tap water only increases the concentration of contaminants. Use only cold tap water to cook with.

    3:33 pm  May 26th, 2009
  13. CateringPro

    Fantastic idea as a vegeterian dish for catering. Thanks

    2:37 pm  Jul 26th, 2009
  14. Tiffany

    I just found your blog. This recipe sounds delicious. I’m trying to get away from the boxed rice that is already seasoned, but I never know what to put in my plain rice.

    10:39 pm  Feb 7th, 2010
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    […] Moroccan Meatless Monday For Meatless Monday, how about a hearty meal of Moroccan-spiced vegetarian chili with butternut squash, tomatoes, zucchini, chickpeas, ancho chiles, apricots, and prunes. A bowl of this chili promises to be healthy and full of flavor. Serve with toasted pita points, or make some seasoned couscous with lemon and mint or rice pilaf. […]

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    12:51 am  Jun 4th, 2012
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