Eric and I eat a lot of rice, we even buy it twenty pounds at a time! This is nothing new, I’ve always loved rice. In Hawaii I would buy a bowl of rice for 50 cents for breakfast at school then douse it with Aloha Shoyu. I thought that was the perfect breakfast to start the school day off right. While I still love plain rice, sometimes I also love to doctor it up and make it a little more exotic. This dish of cinnamon infused rice tossed with pomegranate seeds, saffron and mint tastes complex, but is really quite simple to make and sure to wow guests at your holiday party.
I actually came up with this recipe back when I bought several pomegranates because they were on sale. I was planning out our meals in order to stick to the food budget and had worked pomegranate into at least one meal every day of the week. As my friend Kelly pointed out on my pomegranate tuna salad post , tightening our food budget seemed to really increase my creativity in the kitchen.
I was serving leftover dijon molasses pot roast and steamed carrots, so I wanted to do something special with rice to jazz up the meal. I thought about simply tossing pomegranate seeds with the rice, but that still felt a little boring. I often cook rice in juice or stock to change the flavor, or even put sausages in the rice cooker to cook with the rice. With this technique in mind I grabbed a cinnamon stick from my spice drawer (I have a spice drawer, rack, and cupboard!) and nestled it into the rice and water. I also subbed half a cup of vegetable stock instead of using all water to deepen the flavor of the rice.
The smell of cinnamon soon wafted through our house, and when the rice was done I eagerly tasted it. The rice was a little brown from the cinnamon, and the flavor reminded me of the Middle East. I scooped the rice into a bowl and tasted it with a couple pomegranate seeds. It was good but not complete. In keeping with the Middle Eastern theme I grabbed a small pinch of saffron and tossed it with the rice. It was definitely starting to taste exotic but still not exactly what I was looking for.
Finally I went out back and looked at my herb garden. Most of it had been decimated by the early frosts. But there under the kitchen window, standing tall and proud like weary soldiers who made it through the icy battle, were several sprigs of mint. I deeply inhaled their heady scent and gleefully plucked three of them from the ground.
I chopped up a few mint leaves and mixed everything together. This was it! The jazzy exotic recipe I’d been searching for! The earthy taste of cinnamon that lingers on your tongue, the sweetness of mint with the floral notes of saffron, and the bright burst of tart pomegranate juice with every bite melded into a beautifully complex symphony of flavor.
It was time for one last test, the husband stamp of approval. I brought him a spoonful and at first glance he asked “Are you going to put pomegranates in everything?” While his mouth was still open I stuck the spoon in. Surprised he took the bite and thoughtfully chewed. “MMRPH MMM!” I waited for him to swallow and repeat himself.
“This is great! Is there more?” Satisfied, I dished the rice up for each of us (making sure there was enough for photographs later of course). It was the perfect side dish to make our leftover meat exciting. Although it took me about 40 minutes to create this recipe, it should only take you as long as your rice cooker (or pot) needs to cook the rice. Just chop the mint and seed the pomegranate while your rice is cooking.
If you don’t have any saffron, don’t buy it in the spice section of a regular grocery store! You’ll pay way too much as saffron is pretty much THE most expensive spice. I got a small bottle at Trader Joe’s for $5, but once that’s used up I plan to buy saffron online. This rice is great hot or at room temperature, and also reheats well for lunch the next day.
Pomegranate Saffron Riceserves 4 as a side
1 cup uncooked rice
1/2 cup vegetable stock
1 cup water
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
small pinch of saffron
10 mint leaves chopped
salt and pepper to taste
Place rice in your pot or rice cooker pot and rinse well until water runs clear. Add vegetable stock and the cup of water then nestle the cinnamon stick into the rice. Cook rice until done (usually 20 minute simmer or whenever the rice cooker clicks off).
Discard cinnamon stick and scoop rice into a large bowl. Add pomegranate seeds, saffron and mint and toss gently to avoid damaging the rice grains. Sprinkle with salt and pepper if desired.
Approximate cost/serving: Although we buy Nishiki rice which is a little more expensive, we get a huge bag which makes it more affordable in the long run. If you don’t have homemade vegetable stock, don’t buy any, just use water. There’s still plenty of flavor from the cinnamon. This cost me about $1.75 to make so just 44 cents a serving.
Vegetarian/Gluten Free: Yes and vegan too!