Walking outside I can smell fall in the air. The light is changing and you can see just the hint of autumn in the leaves. But summer hasn’t quite left us yet. Portland is finally getting a dose of late summer rain and with it high humidity. If there was any question as to whether the Moors invaded the Iberian Peninsula, just take a look at my hair when the humidity spikes. No amount of leave-in conditioner calms my frizz.
This weather reminds of spring in Austin and I find my cravings lean towards a lighter fare.
I found inspiration in Louisa Shafia’s Lucid Food– a gorgeous cookbook of simple, healthy and often unique dishes. Her version of Green Rice is laced with lime powder, dill, and pistachios. I didn’t have lime powder on hand so I sprinkled a generous bit of sumac powder to offer the tanginess you might get from lime powder. I also squeezed a bit of fresh lime in to the finished dish. I added some French lentils I had on hand in lieu of her choice of pistachios. I wanted the dish to be more of a one-pot meal so we could have leftovers for a few days.
I served this dish with some sautéed red chard and fresh filets of tilapia. Tilapia is our go-to summer fish. It’s very inexpensive and light. I find it’s delicate flavor lends well to seasoning. We sometimes generously season it with Cajun spices, but often we just add a squeeze of lemon and fresh herbs from our kitchen garden.
What you’ll need:
1-2 cups basmati rice, cooked (I used brown basmati)
1 tsp saffron threads
2-4 tbsp olive oil
2 leeks, green and white parts, sliced and/or chopped
2 tsp or more sumac powder
1 cup chopped Italian parsley
1 cup chopped cilantro
1 cup French lentils, cooked
A few splashes of champagne vinegar. (or whatever white vinegar you have on hand)
Salt and pepper to taste (I used freshly ground green peppercorns for a bit of a bite)
Place your rice in a sieve and rinse for several minutes under cool water. Add one cup of rice to two and a half cups of water in a pot and bring to a boil. Turn down to a hard simmer for about 20 minutes. Lower to a softer simmer until all water is absorbed. Turn off the heat and let you’re your rice rest. There are probably better instructions floating around on the Internet, but this is, more or less, how I do it.
Rinse lentils well and place in a pot and add water to about two to three inches above them. Bring to a boil and then turn down heat to a hard simmer. Cook until lentils have softened. About 20 minutes.
Place saffron in about 2 tablespoons of cool water and set aside.
Warm a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan on medium and sauté leeks until they begin to soften and turn golden. Pour the saffron through a sieve in to your leeks and rice. Slowly start folding in all of the other ingredients. You’ll probably want to taste your rice here and there to see if you need to add more spices or vinegar.
Place lid on saucepan and remove from heat. Let sit so the flavors can meld. Taste after a few minutes and add more spices if needed. I found the rice and lentil absorbed much of the flavor so I had to continue adding a bit of a salt and sumac.
Make sure your tilapia is fresh and natural. The fish we get at Whole Foods (and New Seasons) is farm-raised, and abide by Whole Foods strict farm standards. Trust me, if you care at all for our environment you don’t want to eat wild tilapia. They are bottom feeders, which means, first, who know what they’re eating thanks to what us humans dump in the ocean. Secondly, the fishing practices are very questionable. Can you imagine the damage that can be (and is!) done to the ocean environment when you have nets trawling the bottom of the sea? I don’t even want to think about it.
Tilapia is not a thick fish. It usually takes only a few minutes to cook through.
Warm olive oil in a skillet. While pan is heating up rub a bit of olive oil, a squeeze of lime or lemon, salt, pepper (I used crushed green peppercorns) and fresh herb of your choice in to the tilapia.
Place fish in warm pan and let cook for about 3-4 minutes, depending on thickness, on each side. I find the tilapia is done when it’s not spongy or rubbery when you poke it with your spatula. You want your tilapia buttery and flakey.
Serve over a bed of golden rice and red chard with a cup of Moroccan mint tea. Look out the window and watch fall come around the corner.