There’s something about cookbooks that make me believe in my ability to cook beautiful and masterful dishes. And while that’s totally a good thing, the downside is that I often wish I had the ability to arrange and photograph my food just like a professional.
So when I got the chance to review Einat Admony’s Balaboosta: Bold Mediterranean Recipes to Feed the People You Love, I was beyond excited to take and make these beautiful foods and put them into my belly.
Well, it might have also been a bit of my Greek heritage sneaking out and wanting to indulge in all things Mediterraneanly delicious. As I looked around my kitchen, I realized I had pretty much everything that was needed for the rice recipe called “Rice Fit for a King.” And as someone who believes in treating oneself royally, this seemed like the perfect choice.
Now, I am also a single person, so I adjusted the recipe in half. I also had to tweak a few things, mainly because I don’t have cumin seeds (but do have cumin seasoning). My version entailed cooking the rice for about 20ish minutes plus pan frying the potatoes with turmeric in canola oil (on medium – this is important, as I had the heat too high and *might* have burnt my first batch). I then sautéed my diced carrots and raisins for about 10 minutes or so. During that time, it’s also a good idea to drain and rinse the rice, which I added back to the pot, plus the cooked carrots/raisin mix and topped them with the potatoes.
I did let the rice and all those fixings simmer on SUPER low heat (with a towel and lid) for about 45 minutes. Once that was done, I scooped out a decent sized portion to accompany some leftover chicken.
My modified recipe still made quite a lot, and it is delicious; as in I totally had some again for dinner the next night. I would love to have an occasion to cook the full recipe in a more straightforward method, but overall I’m thrilled with my single-portion attempt.
And I do admit, I have been feeling pretty kingly lately…
Want to snag Balaboosta for yourself? Check it out at Amazon.com or in a bookstore, if those still exist where you live.
Rice Fit for a King
4 cups jasmine rice
1 large potato, peeled
1⁄4 cup plus 2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon ground turmeric (optional)
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
1 cup dried currants or raisins
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
Bring 4 quarts of water and 1/4 cup salt to a boil (it may seem like a lot of salt, but the goal is to cook the rice as you would pasta). Meanwhile, rinse the rice in cold water; repeat until the water is clear. Add the rice to the boiling pot and cook until it is almost tender but still crunchy in the middle, 5 to 7 minutes.
Since you’re cooking the rice for only about 10 minutes, there will still be plenty of liquid remaining. When the rice is al dente, drain in a fine-mesh sieve and rinse under cold water. Drain completely, then dump it into a large bowl.
While the rice is cooking, slice the potato into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Heat 1/4 cup of the oil in a Dutch oven or other large, heavy pot over medium heat. Stir in the turmeric. Arrange the potatoes in a single layer at the bottom of the pot, making sure that all the pieces fit snugly. Sprinkle a pinch or two of salt over the potatoes. Sauté them until crisp and golden, about 5 minues, then flip them over to cook the other side, about 20 minutes altogether. Remove from the heat.
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a skillet and add the carrots, currants, and cumin seeds. Stir frequently and sauté until the carrots are slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and scrape the carrot mixture into the bowl of rice and toss to combine. Transfer the rice mixture to the Dutch oven on top of the potatoes, then drape a kitchen towel over the pot to prevent any steam from escaping. Place the lid right over the towel, gather the ends of the towel, and bunch them on top of the lid.
Place the pot over low, low heat and cook until the rice is tender, about 1 hour. You can serve this dish two ways—by inverting the entire pot of rice over onto a large platter or by scooping the rice onto a dish and then placing the potato slices on top. I always hold my breath when I flip the entire pot of rice over, and it doesn’t always have a fairy-tale ending. So I usually cheat and go the other route.
Again, we recommend you check out Balaboosta. It’s not a good month unless you’ve spent at least half your rent money on books.
Post and Photos by Dayna Brownfield. Cover image and Recipe courtesy of and excerpted from Balaboosta by Einat Admony (Artisan Books). Copyright (c) 2013. Photographs within book by Quentin Bacon.