SAFFRON JEWELED RICE

The winter season is, at its heart, about hospitality. We open up our homes and invite others to step inside and take the chill off, join us for a full-blown holiday party, an informal gathering of friends, a family dinner. Slightly decadent foods that are bursting with flavor (butter, sugar, nuts, fruit....you are the siren song of my holiday season) are mandatory, both for that convivial feeling and to stave off the cold.

I made this saffron-infused rice dish for an imagined New Year's Eve gathering (as part of a styled shoot that I'll reveal here on the blog soon!) inspired by jewel tones and rich flavors. Though it's based on a traditional Persian dish called 'jeweled rice', I'll be the first one to admit that my technique is less than traditional in approach, leaning heavily on ad-libbing and 'things I like' vs. 'the way it's done.' I didn't use dried barberries, for example, a common-enough Middle Eastern ingredient that's less common and harder to find here. I like the ruby glow of pomegranate seeds in this dish so much better, and the satisfyingly juicy, caviar-like pop as each one yields between your teeth in the middle of a warm bite of rice. I didn't use the required amount of sugar (most recipes call for the carrots and orange zest to be candied in syrup before mixing in, which frankly, is just way too much sweetness for me). And my largest crime against tradition? I didn't go for the extra step at the end and allow the rice to steam in a heavy-bottomed pot until browned and crispy on the bottom. This delicacy, known as

tahdig

, is unbelievably delicious to anyone who loves browned crispy things (which at last count was, like, 100% of the population) and.........I have never once been able to make it properly. If anyone wants to help me complete my rice education,

teach me this!

I'm in your hands.

Still, I'm pretty satisfied with the way this streamlined version of an elegant dish turned out in my kitchen. Rich & fragrant, it't the perfect opportunity to be a little extravagant and use slightly spendy ingredients like saffron and pistachios, plus plenty of butter because.......winter. The sweetness of dried fruit and carrots contrasts so nicely with the tartness of orange juice and zest, and the earthy quality of saffron ties it all together. Celebrate the dead of winter with pops of the brightest colors imaginable on your shared table, a winter sun to light the path into the new year!

Saffron Jeweled Rice

1/2 cup fresh orange juice

1/2 teaspoon saffron threads

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

1 cup diced yellow or white onion

1 cup grated carrot

2 tablespoons orange zest

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1 cup diced dried apricots

1/2 cup roughly chopped pistachios

2 cups long grain rice (Basmati is preferable)

1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

salt & pepper, to taste

Heat orange juice just until warm to the touch, add saffron and let infuse.

Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until just softened, then add grated carrot and continue to cook while stirring for about 3 more minutes. Add saffron liquid, orange zest, spices, apricots, pistachios, and remaining butter. Stir until butter has melted and spices are fragrant, then remove from heat and set aside.

Rinse the rice in a few changes of cold water, until the water that runs off is clear. Drain and set aside. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the rinsed rice and boil until grains are tender, then drain well in a colander and return to pot while still hot.

Gently re-warm the saffron butter mixture if it has cooled, then drizzle over cooked rice and stir until fully combined. Place a lid on the pot and let everything steam in the residual heat for five minutes.

Fold in pomegranate seeds, then serve. A wide platter is great for presentation, or a pretty bowl in a contrasting color. For our New Year's Eve styled shoot, we actually served this as an appetizer, spooned into the crunchy 'cups' of pale green endive leaves. More on that coming soon!

SWEET LEMON BISCUITS, Y'ALL


Photos: Ten22 Studio
I need to be the first to point something out: I have no biscuit-making pedigree in my heritage. There's no familial biscuit recipe handed down in grandmother's shaking hand, no secret ways, no bygone biscuits that I can recall at all, really.
But I love them.
Buttery and flaky, soul-redeeming when they're perfect but honestly great even when they're crumbly, served savory to mop up streaks of gravy or just-so sweet and dolloped with rich lemon curd.....man, do I love me some biscuits. Do you need to have biscuits in your bloodline in order to make them properly? Purists are going to tell me yes, but even still, I don't know. Certainly my biscuits aren't Southern-grandmother-perfect. My people aren't Southern at all, but British--maybe my biscuits have a touch of the scone about them, instead--so these may be cultural anomalies, but they're fantastic alongside a hot, steaming cup of morning coffee, or a tall glass of iced tea. Lightly sweet and kissed with fragrant lemon flavor, the rich pistachio glaze on top is all the sugar you need (plus maybe a little bit extra).
Photos: Ten22 Studio
Just so you know: I'm not a huge fan of most pictures of me. Unless they're taken by a freakishly gifted professional, as these were. Most of the gorgeous photography in this post was shot by my friend, the very talented Rennai Hoefer of Ten22 Studio (she has since blogged the rest of the photos from this shoot, and they're all just as delicately stunning), in an equally gorgeous kitchen borrowed from Heather Kinkel (aka The Birdiegirl Co.). It takes a village to produce a lovely batch of biscuits, people. Rennai and Heather made me feel like a downright domestic goddess that day, and in gratefulness to them, I share my biscuit recipe from that day with all of you. Go forth, blog friends, and bake these for the ones you love. ❤️

Photo: Sweet Laurel


Sweet Lemon Biscuits with Pistachio Glaze
Makes a dozen small biscuits
For the biscuits:
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1/2 cup white sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (very cold, ideally you should place it in the freezer for 20 minutes first)
1/2 cup of milk
zest from 1 small lemon
2 tablespoons lemon juice
For the glaze:
2/3 cup chopped pistachios
1 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
water
salt (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 and line a baking sheet with parchment in preparation. In a large mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt & sugar. Using the large holes of a cheese grater, grate cold butter into the dry mixture. Work the mixture with your fingertips until everything becomes coarse and crumbly, then STOP! Add milk and work the mixture a little more with your hands until a shaggy dough forms. Add lemon zest & juice, work it gently into the mixture, then gather the dough in a loose ball and place it on a working surface (a clean, lightly floured countertop or another piece of parchment works here).

Pat dough into a shape roughly one inch thick, then--using a small biscuit-cutter or my favorite method, the drinking edge of a glass*--cut out biscuit shapes and place on prepared baking sheet. Bake at 425 for about 12-15 minutes, or until lightly golden. Remove and let cool thoroughly.

( *My 'biscuit-cutter' is a small glass that cuts shapes about 2 1/2" inches across. Yours may vary slightly)

To make the glaze, place 1/3 cup pistachios (setting aside the other 1/3 cup for now) in a food processor and pulse until they are as finely ground as possible. Add confectioner's sugar, then water in small amounts. I like to start with a tablespoon and blend until a slow, runny honey-like consistency is achieved, adding a few drops of water here and there as needed. Add a pinch of salt if using unsalted pistachios. Spread on the tops of your cooled biscuits and sprinkle with the remaining chopped pistachios.