I first had this one-pot dish in Tel Aviv, but its flavor notes—a medley of savory, sweet, and sour—are similar to other dishes you’ll see throughout the Middle East. Pistachios browned in butter, sweet nuggets of Medjool dates, and piquant lemon juice bring out the best in lamb and rice seasoned with fragrant cinnamon, nutmeg, and cumin. For the most robust flavor, use a high-quality purchased chicken stock, or, even better, homemade stock.
ACTIVE COOK TIME: 45 minutes
SERVES: 6 to 8
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
½ pound ground lamb
½ teaspoon kosher salt (preferably Diamond Crystal)
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups short-grain white rice, rinsed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup frozen peas
½ cup chopped pitted Medjool dates
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
½ cup shelled pistachios
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1. In a Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat until it shimmers. Add the onion and sauté until lightly golden brown, 6 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.
2. Add the lamb, season with the salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned. Add the rice and stir to combine. Stir in the cinnamon, nutmeg, and cumin.
3. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook, until all the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Stir in the peas and dates.
4. Remove from the heat and let the rice rest, covered, for 10 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, in a small skillet, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the pistachios and stir until golden and fragrant, about 2 minutes, being careful not to burn them. With a slotted spoon, transfer the pistachios to a plate.
6. Add the lemon juice and half the pistachios to the rice and fluff the rice with a fork. Spoon the rice into a serving bowl or onto plates and garnish with the remaining pistachios.
From The Simple Art of Rice by JJ Johnson with Danica Novgorodoff, Flatiron Books 2023. Photo credit: Beatriz da Costa
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