Roasted chunks of butternut squash are tossed with spice-infused basmati rice, crunchy nuts and vibrant bits of fruit to make this festive vegan jeweled rice.
Welcome to Thanksgiving week. The big day is almost upon us, and I for one am pretty psyched about it this year. It's been a crazy year, and I'm so looking forward to some down time over the holidays. Thanksgiving week is usually about when I start going into end-of-year wind down/party time mode. And the three days leading up to Thanksgiving I have trouble focusing on much other than food. Fortunately, I've got this site as an outlet for that, and you guys all seem keen to listen to my babbling about recipes. Thanks for indulging me!
So, jeweled rice. Probably not the most conventional of Thanksgiving sides, but we are eating vegan, so convention can go right out the old window. This fruity pilaf is something you'd probably find at a Middle Eastern restaurant, rather than at most Americans' holiday tables, but it's actually perfect Thanksgiving material: buttery spiced rice, sweet bits of fruit, crunchy nuts, and it's not bad to look at either. It's also pretty darn easy to make. (Most of the work is in gathering ingredients, but you're probably headed to the supermarket this week anyway). Impress your family without a sweat. That's my kind of dish.
To Thanksgiving the dish up a just a bit, I added some roasted butternut squash chunks. You wouldn't normally find squash in a dish like this, but it works, and you can let your squash roast away while the rice simmers, making life nice and easy.
Butternut Squash Jeweled Rice
- 1 ½ cups diced butternut squash, ½ inch cut
- 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil, divided
- ¼ cup hot water
- Generous pinch saffron
- 1 large shallot, finely chopped
- 1 cup basmati rice
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ cup dried cherries
- ½ cup chopped dates
- 1 ½ cups vegetable broth
- ½ cup slivered almonds
- ½ cup shelled pistachios
- 1 orange, peeled and diced
- ½ cup pomegranate arils
- Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400°. Toss butternut squash cubes in ½ tablespoon of olive oil to coat, and arrange in an even layer in roasting pan or on a baking sheet. Bake until tender and lightly browned, about 20 minutes.
While butternut squash roasts, place the hot water in a small cup and add saffron. Allow to sit for a few minutes while you begin preparing the rice. The color should begin to run.
Coat the bottom of a medium saucepan with remaining tablespoon of oil and place over medium heat. Add shallot and sauté until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add rice, cinnamon, cumin, and cardamom. Toast the rice and the spices for about 2 minutes, until the spices become very fragrant. Add saffron water, bay leaf, vegetable broth, cherries and dates. Raise heat and bring the liquid to a simmer, stirring a few times. Lower heat and cover. Allow to simmer until all of the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to sit for about 5 minutes.
Remove the lid from the pot and remove the bay leaf. Stir in pistachios, almonds, orange and pomegranate arils. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.