Rice pilaf, dried cherries, and pistachios come together in a superb medley of flavors and texture. A brilliant combination that makes a perfect quick weeknight side or an elegant dish when you’re entertaining guests. The nuts and dried fruit are endlessly customizable, too.
This rice pilaf is a perfect side dish for poultry dishes, such as roast duck legs with caramelized shallots and garlic or Cornish hens with braised cabbage and apple. The clever cook could add dried cranberries or apricots instead of the cherries, and almonds or pine nuts instead of pistachios.–Diane Rossen Worthington
☞ Table of Contents
Rice Pilaf, Dried Cherries, and Pistachios
- 1/4 cup unsalted raw pistachios
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 scallions white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
- 1 1/2 cups long grain rice
- 1/4 cup unsweetened dried pitted cherries
- 3 cups hot water, vegetable broth, homemade chicken stock or canned chicken broth
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
- Heat a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add the pistachios and toss gently for 2 to 3 minutes, or until they begin to brown lightly. Remove to a small bowl.
- In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Sauté the scallions for 2 minutes, or until softened.
- Raise the heat to high. Sauté the rice for about 3 minutes, or until well coated and lightly browned. Add the cherries and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to medium, add the hot water, stir with a fork, and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat to low.
- Simmer the rice for about 20 minutes, or until all liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender. Season with salt and pepper and add the parsley and pistachios. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Serve immediately.
Can I make rice pilaf ahead of time?For advance preparation, make the rice pilaf 2 hours ahead and keep it at room temperature. Reheat it carefully in the top of a double boiler over medium heat for 10 minutes.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
Useable way, way beyond a side for poultry, I made this as a side for a Middle Eastern dinner feast I was preparing. Apricots would certainly have worked as well, and subbing almonds, or pine nuts, or even walnuts would also have worked terrifically well. Around Thanksgiving, this would be great with the suggestion of dried cranberries and maybe even pecans.
The technique of sautéing the scallions in the oil before adding the rice, then sautéing the rice and then adding the cherries before cooking, created a super-flavorful pilaf, and the technique is well worth keeping to adapt to other grain dishes as well. I used the hot water option over stock, because I felt this dish had flavor aplenty already and wouldn’t lose anything without flavor from the stock, and I was right.
The fresh parsley, right from our garden, not only added green freshness to the taste but also visually. Around Christmas, the red fruit and green parsley would look festive, but the rest of the year it doesn’t look out of place. I didn’t quite manage to plan well enough to serve immediately, but I still had a delicious and beautifully presentable pilaf. I would have liked to try the re-heating technique; unfortunately, we had no leftovers! The estimate that one recipe serves four to six is accurate, though it wouldn’t hurt to make extra.
The pilaf method of making rice is my favorite way to cook the grain; sautéing the rice and aromatics in oil first gives added flavor and helps keeps the cooked rice fluffy and not at all sticky. I highly recommend using stock in place of water in this recipe, it truly adds so much flavor to the overall dish (I used low-sodium chicken stock).
This specific recipe had a great combination of flavors as well–tart yet sweet dried cherries and the buttery toasty taste of the pistachios. (Plus, if you’re considering serving this during the holidays, the color combination couldn’t be more perfect.) Simple yet elegant, this side dish was lovely with pan-seared panko salmon and some sautéed kale with fennel.
As for the recipe itself, yes it does serve 4-6 people nicely and the hands-on time of 15 minutes, plus the overall time of 30 minutes was just about right. My rice needed 22 minutes over low heat/covered to absorb all of the stock, and I would check your pistachios in Step 1 at about 1 minute just to be sure they aren’t burning. If you wanted a touch more added flavor, I would recommend stirring in a tablespoon of unsalted butter into the warm rice before serving.
Originally published September 8, 2007