P is for Pilaf.

When I grew up, there were only two rice dishes in my house—steamed or Spanish/Mexican. Mom didn’t experiment much and I was a picky eater, so you can imagine a pretty limited menu. My knowledge of all of the amazing possibilities of rice could essentially be written on a single grain… So when I tried pilaf for the first time, it was life-changing.


My neighborhood was kind of a hodge podge of ethnicities and across the street was my best friend, who is of Armenian descent but migrated from Ethiopia. There was some amazing cooking going on in her home. The flavors were so complex and exciting that even my picky eater curiosity was piqued! If you’re thinking what a fool I was, I agree—I could kick myself now for not appreciating all that delicious food.

The pilaf dish was a safe bet for me because I hated onion and garlic. I’m talking hate. I still remember the first bite of pilaf—it was subtle and buttery in flavor, yet didn’t overtake the whole dish. We were eating kebab and pilaf, and I was in heaven. Who knew a rice dish prepared so simply could have such flavor? This is where my love affair with Middle Eastern food began. I learned that pilaf is often cooked in many countries, but what’s most important is the simplicity of flavor that complements each dish.

Pilaf is literally butter, rice, vermicelli, and water or broth (I like chicken broth) and that’s all you need for a traditional pilaf. This dish really is the star of the show and can be paired with multiple cuisines, not just Middle Eastern.  The roasty nutty flavor frying gives the rice lends an extra layer of deliciousness. There are variations to pilaf, but I love it in its simplest form. However, adding toasted almonds slivers to give it an extra punch doesn’t hurt either.


So, if you’re still buying boxes of rice mix at the grocery, you can stop now. You know the ones. Garlic rice mix, pilaf-like mixes, vegetable pilaf—too many to list. You don’t have to. I promise. Once I tell you how to make pilaf, you’ll never go back. It’s so easy. Plus, it takes two seconds to do. Well not two, but it’s fast and worth making. Throw those boxes out!


½ cup uncooked vermicelli or orzo pasta
1 tablespoon olive oi3 tablespoons butter
1 cup uncooked long grain white rice
3 ½ cups of water or chicken stock

4 tbl toasted almond slivers


  1. Rice – Rinse until water runs clear. (optional)


  1. In a sauce pan, add oil and butter and heat pan to medium.
  2. Add rice cook until a light golden color begins. Add vermicelli or orzo and cook until medium golden in color and the rice mixture begins smell nutty (reduce heat if rice and pasta begin to burn).
  3. Pour in water or chicken stock, bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to low simmer. Cook 12-14 minutes until liquid is absorbed.
  4. Remove from heat and place kitchen towel between lid and pan until ready to serve.
  5. Serve at room temperature.