When DP goes away, I cook differently. I do a lot of MacGyvering, and focus on using up leftovers. I can concoct a meal for two of us out of a bit of this and a bit of that, that wouldn't really stretch to feed three of us comfortably. And I can make one-dish meals, which Miss B and I will eat quite happily, but which often provoke a "Where's the rest of dinner?" expression on DP's face. (Unlike Miss B and me, DP is one of those people who 'forgets' to eat lunch, so he generally arrives home like a ravening something or other, and enjoys a bit of variety in his ravening.)
Because of this, one-dish meals are often a page-turner for me, as when I came across a recipe for a pilaf recently. But it got me thinking about pilaf as a concept, and how, like fried rice or risotto, it is really an adaptable vehicle for using rice to build a few key ingredients into a complete meal.
So, with that in mind, here's how I made my first MacGyver pilaf earlier this week:
1. Put the kettle on. (If I'd had any stock, I would have heated that instead.)
2. Put a medium saucepan on the stove over low heat, poured in a couple Tbsp (~30 ml/1 oz) of olive oil.
3. Chopped half a red onion and two cloves of garlic, added to the saucepan, let cook gently.
4. Added half a cup (~120 g/4 oz) long-grain white rice to the saucepan, stirred it to coat completely in the warmed oil.
5. Poured in 1 cup (240 ml/8 oz) hot water, added a healthy sprinkle of salt. Stirred thoroughly, clamped on the lid, and left to cook for 12-15 minutes or until all nearly the water was absorbed.
6 While the rice was cooking, I extracted from the refrigerator several containers: one containing about 2 servings of leftover grilled zucchini, one containing about 2 servings of leftover lemon-mustard chicken, and one containing quite a lot of leftover basil-cashew-parmesan dip. I chopped the chicken into bite-sized pieces.
7. When the rice was nearly done, I stirred the zucchini, the chicken chunks, and a heaping spoonful of the dip into the hot rice.
8. I dished it up into two bowls, and dinner was served! With some bread to mop up, and some carrot sticks I had chopped for us to nibble on while dinner was cooking, we were both satisfied and there was just enough left for a thermos lunch for Miss B next day.
Notes: I chose these particular leftovers to go together because they all had a fairly similar Mediterranean flavor profile (lemons/garlic/herbs/olive oil etc) which I thought would harmonize with each other, and with the dish. They did - it really worked, even better than I had hoped; plus it came together really quickly (and with much less stirring than either fried rice or risotto!). I'm now contemplating a variation for dinner this weekend involving brown rice, leftover steak with red wine sauce, and leftover green beans. The permutations are endless once you start thinking about it. The only question is: does it really qualify as a pilaf? Or is there some other catchall term that's better? Wikipedia has a whole list of 'mixed rice dishes' in the pilaf entry; the term is clunky, but the list opens up even more possibilities....