Rice and peas are pure comfort food to me, more so even than pasta. I know that’s hard to believe, but it’s true. Maybe it’s because my mom cooked peas a lot when I was growing up. She cooked them very well, too, in a delicious tomato sauce (whose secret ingredient, I found out years later, was a couple tablespoonfuls of sugar!). So I’ve always loved peas. I remember reading Pinocchio as a girl and being utterly baffled by the fact that he hated peas. Rice pilaf was also a staple at our house—rich and buttery, with lots of carrots and onions.
So whenever I’m low on inspiration about what to cook for dinner, I go back to rice and peas. But not just barebones rice and peas. The variations you can create with these two basic ingredients are inexhaustible, really, and run the gamut from very simple to quite fancy. My saffron-garlic rice and peas with tempeh bacon tends towards the simpler end of the spectrum, though it might not seem so at first sight. I suspect that’s because saffron is involved, and there’s something ooh-la-la about saffron.
It actually took me only around half an hour to make the dish from start to finish (I prepared the tempeh bacon and peas while the rice was cooking), no special trip to the store required. I keep several kinds of rice in my pantry at all times, and several bags of peas in the freezer. My spice drawer is seldom without its tiny glass vial of saffron threads. And there’s always some kind of veggie bacon in my fridge, too (I’m not sure whether to be embarrassed about that or not), and usually it’s tempeh bacon since I prefer its texture. Now, rice and peas together are pretty awesome, but add in the smoky sweet flavor of bacon and you get quite a heady mixture. Irresistible, I would say, but that’s just how I swing.
Saffron Garlic Rice with Tempeh Bacon
Makes about 6 servings
- 1 1/4 cups long grain white rice, uncooked
- 2 1/4 cups water
- 1 large pinch saffron (8-10 threads)
- 3 TBSP. olive oil
- 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 6 oz. tempeh bacon, cut into small chunks
- 1 1/2 cups frozen peas
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
First, prepare the rice. In a medium pan, bring the water to a boil. Add in the rice and saffron, and let the water come to a gentle simmer. Cover the pan tightly, turn down the heat to the lowest setting, and cook the rice for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat, and let the rice sit, covered, for another 5 minutes. Then fluff the rice with a fork.
Place the olive oil and garlic in a sauté pan. Turn on the heat to medium low and cook until the garlic is fragrant and has just started to sizzle. (I like to start cooking garlic in a cold pan to prevent it from burning.)
Turn the heat to medium. Add in the chopped tempeh bacon and cook for about 5 minutes, until the tempeh becomes slightly caramelized around the edges. Add in the peas and cook until they’re completely thawed.
Finally, add in the cooked rice and stir well to combine. Turn off the heat and sprinkle in the chopped parsley. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Nutritional Information: 6 servings. Per serving: 265 calories; 9.4 g fat; 201 mg sodium; 35.6 g carbs; 1.1 g dietary fiber; 0.1 g sugar; 8.6 g protein.
Posted Thursday, October 20, 2011