I am always looking for new ways to cook rice. White rice is great with spicy dishes to offset some of the heat – but my family is constantly asking for rice with dinner – so I look for creative recipes that I can try.
I saw this recipe in Gourmet and decided that – like the Zucchini Rice Casserole – this would be hard to mess up. You can add whatever vegetables you have – leeks, shalots, carrots, celery, or the peppers and onions that the recipe calls for. What makes this rice unique is the annatto seeds. I love the slightly peppery flavor this spice brings to the dish – it is not spicy, just very flavorful. Think of it like saffron, but not as pungent. I have cooked with annatto seeds a few times, and each time I like the flavor more and more. I loved the extra punch that the cilantro gave this dish as well – I didn’t have any fresh cilantro in the house – but I had some frozen capsules that I picked up from Trader Joes that is perfect in a pinch. I’m sure fresh cilantro would be even better.
- 1 tablespoon annatto seeds (see cooks’ note, below)
- 1/4 cup mild olive or vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
- 1/4 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
- 1/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
- 2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- 1 3/4 cups long-grain white rice
- 3 cups water
Heat annatto seeds and oil in a very small saucepan over low heat, swirling pan frequently, until oil turns bright red-orange and begins to simmer, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 10 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl, discarding seeds.
Cook onion, bell peppers, garlic, and cilantro in 1 1/2 tablespoons annatto oil in a 2-to 3-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring, until vegetables are softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring, until most of grains are opaque, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in water and 1 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil. Stir rice again, then reduce heat to low and cook, covered, until rice is just tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, 5 minutes.
Fluff rice with a fork before serving.
- You can substitute 1/4 teaspoon saffron for the annatto. Use only 1 1/2 tablespoon oil and crumble saffron into oil just before using it.
- Leftover annatto oil keeps, refrigerated in an airtight container, up to 1 month.
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