Dicing onions on the way to a delicious rice pilaf.

Rice pilaf with toasted pine nuts and basil.

Rice pilaf with toasted pine nuts and basil.

All the October Country Inn’s dinners are internationally themed, and a rice pilaf is often a part of many of our meals.  A pilaf is typically rice that is cooked in a seasoned broth, such as chicken broth.  Also, as with many of our dishes, sautéed or uncooked diced onions  play a fundamental part in the list of ingredients.  Consequently, a quick primer on dicing onions seems an appropriate topic before launching into the recipe.

cutonionAs illustrated in the accompanying suite of photos, the efficient dicing of an onion begins with removing the ends in a way that utilizes the onion’s natural layers to create the diced bits.  As indicated in the top left hand photo, slice off just enough of the stem end, and its opposite, to create a small flat area.  This flat area provides a stable platform to slice the onion into two halves, as shown in the top right photo.  As in the bottom left photo, place  one of the halves on its freshly cut side, and cut it into a series of 1/8 to 1/4 inch slices, holding the whole thing together as you slice.  Finally, as the bottom right photo shows, turn the sliced onion a quarter-turn and repeat slicing from the end toward the middle.  Do one side to just before the middle, then turn the onion a half-turn and fining the final slicing from the end toward the middle.  You now have a pile of diced onions ready for the next step.

The beauty of rice pilaf is that the basic dish is especially open to endless additions and variations.  This particular recipe incorporates dried basil and toasted pine nuts.  To make enough to serve 4 to 6 diners, collect the following ingredients:

  • 1 cup of rice (we use Uncle Ben’s)
  • 16 ounces of stock, water, or a mixture of the two
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of dried basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup of toasted pine nuts
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Toasted pine nuts on a cookie sheet fresh out of the oven.

Toasted pine nuts on a cookie sheet fresh out of the oven.

Toast the pine nuts beforehand by placing them on a cookie sheet and putting it in a 350 degree oven for about 6 minutes.  Check on the toasting progress every couple of minutes, and shake the cookie sheet every time you check to loosen the nuts.  Remove it when some of the nuts reach a medium brown color.  Set aside to cool before use.

To prepare the pilaf, saute the onions in the olive oil until translucent.  Add the rice and stir for about a minute to combine with the onions.  Add the broth and/or water and bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes.  When free liquid is absorbed, shut off the heat and allow to stand, covered, about another 5 minutes to allow rice to fully absorb the liquid.  Stir basil, salt, pepper, and toasted pine nuts into the rice and serve while streaming.