Rice Pilaf en Croute

Ana, who’s published her own book about spices, is my (spice) partner in crime. Her deeply personal and highly comforting style of cooking is beautifully translated in this recipe: What seems to be a simple rice dish is a memorable meal filled with toasted nuts and my Ana N.36 spice blend’s sesame and rose flavors.

Ana N.36 – Recipe by Ana Sortun, from “The Art of Blending” by Lior Lev Sercarz

Makes 6-8 servings

Ingredients

5          tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2      cup crushed vermicelli noodles

1          cup jasmine rice

3/4     cup cooked green wheat (freekeh) or coarse bulgur wheat

1          cup finely chopped onion

3/4     cup finely chopped dried apricots or figs

1/2      cup lightly toasted pistachios or pine nuts, coarsely chopped

2          tablespoons Ana N.36 spice blend 

8          ounces frozen phyllo dough

Extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Instructions

1. Make the brown butter: Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat while stirring with a wooden spoon. Bring the butter to a simmer and cook until it turns golden brown and smells nutty, about 6 to 8 minutes; be careful not to let the butter burn. Pass the brown butter through a fine-mesh strainer and set aside.

2. Preheat the oven to 375°. Spread the noodles on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until golden brown, about 8 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.

3. Bring 8 cups of water to a boil and add the rice. Simmer until the rice is tender, stirring occasionally, about 12 to 14 minutes. Drain in a fine-mesh sieve and set aside.

4. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of the brown butter in a skillet. Add the onion and cook over low heat, stirring, until soft, about 8 minutes. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the Ana spice blend with the apricots, nuts and roasted vermicelli. Add 1 ¾ cups of water, bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes or until the noodles have absorbed all the liquid and are al dente. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

5. In a large mixing bowl, combine the onion mixture with the rice, wheat and remaining tablespoon of Ana, being careful not to break up the rice. Add the remaining brown butter and season to taste with salt and pepper.

6. Brush a 9-inch cake pan with olive oil or spray with nonstick cooking spray. Take a large piece of phyllo dough, then lightly brush one side of it with olive oil and fold the phyllo in half lengthwise. (Keep the phyllo between sheets of damp paper towels to prevent it from drying out.) Place one end of the dough in the center of the pan and press the dough up and around the sides, leaving about 4 to 5 inches of overhang for covering the top. Working around the pan in a circle, repeat with more phyllo until the pan is completely covered (you’ll need about 5 sheets of dough).

7. Fill the pan with the rice mixture, then fold the phyllo over the top. Brush with olive oil to help form a seal. Bake for 40 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven, invert the pilaf onto a platter, slice into wedges and serve hot.