Meatless Monday: Rice with Chickpeas, Currants & Herbs

     We had meatless sunday as well as meatless monday yesterday in our home.  We fell back into some unsavory eating habits over the past few weeks, eating quick take-out meals and ordering pizza a few times.  I guess Eric was in the mood for some GOOD food and decided to make a wonderful vegetarian lunch.  It would have been vegan had it not been for the butter I slathered all over our garlic naan.  But I could not resist the urge to do so.  I inherited my grandma's love of butter.
     A few months ago Eric bought me a gift, Jerusalem: A Cookbook.  I saw it one day while perusing the local book store and fell in love.  It looked so interesting with new unique recipes, old favorites such as falafel, and of course the gloriously colorful and beautiful pictures of a foreign land and it's food.  I had been reading the book but up until yesterday we had failed to make any of its recipes.  I was planning on using one the recipes for my meatless monday feature, but Eric beat me to it, using a recipe for falafel for our Sunday lunch.  It was very tasty and further encouraged me to try a recipe today.  It is also the reason why my house now smells of curry and my hands like cilantro.  I just brushed a stray hair from my face while typing and the fresh, intoxicating aroma of cilantro filled my nasal passages.  To me this is a simple pleasure, the wonderful aroma of cilantro.  Also what a gift time is, especially when I can fill it with trying out a new recipe, playing with light via photography, and writing about the whole experience.
     Up until I acquired this book my exposure to food from Jerusalem was nil.  The authors of the book Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi include a great introduction in the book for ones like myself.  It gives a brief but colorful description of the people making up the city of Jerusalem, the backgrounds of the varied and diverse inhabitants of the land.  Jerusalem, I learned is a tapestry of cultures and therefore a tapestry of cuisines that at times are intermingled.  The food has evolved over time from various influences.  It explains the reason why the recipe I choose to make today reminds me of the some of the dishes I have had at Indian restaurants.
     This recipe is oh so tasty and very easy to make.  It includes some of my favorite ingredients: rice, chick peas, cilantro.  It is savory but also has a wonderful sweetness imparted by dried currants.  It also includes some of my favorite spices: curry and cumin.  I loved the technique for making the basmati rice.  I am accustomed to using the ratio of double water to rice so this seemed a little foreign to me.  However I followed it exactly and was overjoyed I did as it turned out great, each grain of rice separate from the next.  I did adapt this ever so slightly, based on what I had on hand and personal preference.  This dish makes a great meatless monday entree. I plan on serving it for dinner tonight with garlic naan and a chopped green salad with tomatoes and cucumber.  This dish can either be served warm or at room temperature, so it is great for a dinner party as it is something that can be made ahead of time.  Try this recipe out, it may just inspire you to purchase your own Jerusalem cookbook.

Rice with Chickpeas, Currants, & Herbs

Recipe adapted from Jerusalem: A Cookbook
  1. Place wild rice in small saucepan covered with plenty of water. Bring to boil and reduce heat to low simmering for 35-40 minutes until al dente. Drain and set aside.
  2. Bring water to boil for basmati rice
  3. In medium saucepan and 1 tbsp of olive oil and heat over high. Add the basmati rice and 1/4 teaspoon salt and toast slightly. Slowly add boiling water, decrease heat to lowest flame, cover with lid and cook for 15 minutes.
  4. After basmati rice has cooked for 15 minutes, remove from heat, fluff with fork, cover pan with tea towel, followed by lid and leave set for 10 minutes.
  5. In the meantime while rice is cooking ready chickpeas. (I used 2 cans and did this in two batches so as not to overcrowd my pan).
  6. Place 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil in 12 inch skillet and heat over high heat. Add 1 can drained and rinsed chickpeas and stir to coat with olive oil.
  7. Add 1 1/2 tsp each of curry powder and cumin, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1 tsp fennel seed. Stir quickly to coat. Roast in pan for about 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Repeat steps 6 & 7 with second can of chickpeas.
  8. Assemble salad, add both types of rice, chickpeas, currants, and herbs. Stir to combine, taste and adjust salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Serve warm or at room temperature.  
Cooks tip: I finished this with a drizzle of  excellent quality olive oil over the top just prior to serving.  The original recipe called for fried onions served over the top.  I feel these would have been great and given the dish a bit more crunch but I omitted them at this time to make the dish gluten-free.

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