Now that my husband Ted and I have moved back to Boston, we miss more than ever the long-closed Cedars Restaurant that used to live at the end of our street. Cedars served Middle Eastern food in a space that reminded you of your favorite aunt's kitchen, with formica tables and frilly curtains, and velvet paintings on the walls. We almost always ordered the garlic chicken on skewers, and it always came with a mound of rice pilaf on the side. If you have access to a Middle Eastern market, you can buy authentic chayrere, the thin vermicelli-like noodles, or look for fine egg noodles in the supermarket. Or, buy the thinnest vermicelli pasta you can find, and break it into two-inch pieces. The remaining ingredients come straight from your pantry. Make a pot of this rice ahead of time, and reheat in the microwave. It's the perfect side dish for anything you throw on the grill.
Easy rice pilaf
From the pantry, you'll need: butter, kosher salt, long-grain white rice, ground cinnamon.
Updated from the original October 2006 post. Serves 6-8.
3/4 cup pilaf noodles, fine egg noodles, or angel-hair or vermicelli pasta broken into 2-inch pieces
6 Tbsp butter
2 cups long grain rice, washed
1 tsp salt
4 cups boiling water
1/2 tsp cinnamon for garnish (optional)
In a Dutch oven or heavy stock pot, melt the butter. Sauté the noodles, stirring constantly, until they are light brown (4-5 minutes).
Add rice and salt. Stir until all butter is absorbed by the rice.
Carefully pour in the boiling water. Bring to a boil, then cover the pot tightly. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes, until all of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is cooked but not mushy (check and stir often after 10 minutes of cooking, as the rice might stick to the pot).
Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes or until all water is absorbed.
Sprinkle with cinnamon, if you wish, and serve hot.
More dishes for your Middle Eastern menu:
Chickpea falafel, from The Perfect Pantry
Shakshuka, from The Perfect Pantry
Roasted chickpeas with garlic, cumin and paprika, from The Perfect Pantry
Middle Eastern tomato salad (salad shirazi), from Kalyn's Kitchen
Middle Eastern pita sandwich, from The Lemon Bowl
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