Vegetable Pilaf

Course : Greek
Serves: 6
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2 cups basmati rice
15 pieces saffron strands
5 ounces sliced onion
1 medium leek -- cleaned and sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup diced waxy potatoes
5 ounces carrots -- sliced
5 ounces green beans -- sliced
5 ounces zucchini -- sliced
3/4 cup tomato -- skinned, seeded, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper -- freshly ground
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley -- chopped
1/3 cup fresh dill-- chopped
1 teaspoon fresh mint -- finely chopped plus
1 tablespoon fresh mint -- finely chopped
1 medium lemon -- for zest and juice

Preparation / Directions:

Put the rice in a bowl, pour in cold water, and swirl the rice and water with your hand. Drain and repeat this process until the water runs clear as you drain it. Return the rice to the bowl, fill it once more with cold water, and leave to soak for 20 minutes. Put the saffron strands to soak in 1/4 cup boiling water. In a flameproof casserole, fry the onion and leek in the olive oil over low heat until translucent. Add the potatoes, carrots, green beans, zucchini, chopped tomato, and saffron and its liquid, and sprinkle with the salt and some pepper. Stir, then cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain the rice and spread it in an even layer over the vegetables. Pour in 3 cups water, then sprinkle with half of the chopped parsley and dill, 1 teaspoon chopped mint, and the finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes, until craters form on top of the rice. Remove from the heat, cover the top with a piece of cheesecloth (or a dish towel), and replace the lid. Place in a warm corner of the kitchen for 20 minutes so the rice can steam and all the water be absorbed. Turn onto a warmed serving platter, so that the vegetables are on top. Sprinkle with the remaining chopped parsley, dill, and mint. Drizzle with the juice of the lemon and serve. This recipe serves 6 to 8. Comments: Every Greek family has its renditions of vegetable pilaf, depending on preferences and seasonal availability. It can be served on its own, for Lent, or as an accompaniment for any grilled or roast meats or fowl.

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