Persian Rice with Dill and Pistachios — a Sabzi Polow
I love rice. In all shapes and sizes. Pure and simple. When it comes to my rice, I love to experiment and try new things because, well, isn’t that supposed to be the spice of life? Last night was no exception as I tried out a new recipe that is a variation on a very traditional Persian dish.
For those of you that have never tried or experienced Persian or Iranian cuisine, you’re missing out. Simple and delicious, it makes use of a plethora of herbs, spices, and interesting food combinations that yield flavorful and unique dishes that linger delightfully on your palette and your mind.
Polow is a traditional Persian non-sticky rice dish made by soaking and parboiling basmati rice and then cooking it over low heat. Sabzi polow is a fresh herb variation of this dish which I’ve taken and modified to add pistachios, garlic, and tumeric. While not a traditional preparation in its purist sense, I’ve taken the liberty of still calling it a sabzi polow because it is chock full of fresh dill which I feel makes this dish. The dill brightens the whole dish, making it light and fresh.
This rice dish is probably among one of my favorites so far. While the dill provides a bright companion to the rice, the pistachios cook and soften adding a smooth, soft, and luxurious flavor that was both surprising and delicious. I added garlic for a bit of flavor and tumeric for color. The resultant dish was a beautiful array of color that was amazingly tasty.
Persians take great pride in their preparation of rice and the best rice dishes usually include a wonderfully thick and crispy layer of rice on the bottom, tah-dig, that is a result of cooking the rice for a longer period of time over low heat. The tah-dig is probably the best part of the rice dish, but it does require some skill and practice to properly prepare…something I haven’t quite yet mastered myself. I guess this just means I need to keep on making this dish and the other delicious rice dishes I have in mind. Oh, how I suffer for my craft…
Persian Rice with Dill and Pistachios
Adapted from Gourmet | May 2001
Yields 8-10 servings
I halved this recipe when I prepared it, however in retrospect, I think that half of the volume of rice may have contributed to my lack of tah-dig. I got some crunchy rice, but it wasn’t as golden or as thick as it should have been.
3 cups basmati rice
4 quart water
3 tablespoons salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup fresh dill, chopped
1 cup pistachios, shelled and very coarsely chopped
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
In a large bowl, rinse rice in several changes of cold water until the water runs clear. Drain in a large sieve and set aside.
In a large pot, bring water and salt to boil and add rice. Parboil rice, uncovered, for 6 minutes. Drain in a large sieve.
In a clean pot with a heavy bottom and heavy lid, melt butter and oil over medium heat. Spoon rice into pot to make a thick layer and sprinkle some dill, pistachios, garlic, and tumeric over the layer. Repeat, making several layers and ending with rice as the top layer. Using the handle of a long wooden spoon, push it through the rice to the bottom of the pot to make 5 or 6 holes…this allows the rice to breathe while cooking.
Cover the top of the pot with a kitchen towel and the lid, folding the edges of the towel over the lid to keep it from burning. The towel is used to absorb the steam from the rice resulting in flakier rice. Don’t skip this step! Cook rice, undisturbed over medium heat for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking undisturbed for 45 minutes.
Spoon loose rice onto a serving platter. To remove the tah-dig, dip bottom of pan in a large bowl of cold water for 30 seconds to loosen. Use a large spoon to remove the crust and serve in a separate bowl or over the loose rice.