Thursday, April 24, 2008

"Rice Pilaf"- Our Armenian Family Favorite

Grandma Rose and Her children- Linda, Michele, Laura and Michael

The whole family!
*These pictures are from my Grandma Rose's 80th birthday party in June 2007.*

For as long as I can remember, there is one dish that is especially unique to my family and that my mom would prepare very often.  Whenever my Grandma would visit in the summer we would almost always eat outside at the picnic table and my mom would get the grill going.  We had a charcoal grill that always took awhile to come up to temp.  While we waited, it was the job of my sister and I to assemble the shish-kabobs, which usually included peppers, onions, mushrooms, chicken or steak.  Our hands would be all slippery from the marinade and the ingredients were cold, so our fingers would go numb, making it difficult towards the end to skewer the pieces, but we made do.  Whoever had the job of taking the dishes back into the house would be greeted by a very yummy aroma of a special Armenian dish cooking on the stove.  This special dish is known as "Rice Pilaf".  We all know that when the rice is steaming, the lid must stay of tightly, for the end result is well worth the wait!  

"eem tah-TEEK"- Armenian word for "My Grandma"
My Grandma Rose is a full blooded Armenian, which makes me a quarter-blooded gal.  She used to come up to visit from downstate every summer.  We always looked forward to her coming because she usually picked the hotels with a big pool to play in, and that was a real treat.  We always planned our days around "Jash" Armenian word for dinner, and at least one of those meals always included Rice pilaf.  Some research has found Armenian history extends back to the stone ages.  Armenia is located between Europe and Asia, where Turkey lies to the West and Iran to the South.  We are a proud group of people, who are very driven to succeed in all we set out to do.  A famous Armenian some of you might know is the singer/actor Cher.  Rice pilaf is well known as an Armenian dish that is meant to complement the meal.  The base is rice, but you can add whatever you want to it.  My family always liked to take Shish-kabobs and assemble them on top of a mountain of pilaf.  My mom would usually warm-up canned corn with regular weekday meals that included pilaf, and then my sister and I would mix the corn right in with the pilaf and lots of salt and pepper.  Nowadays, my own kids have claimed that pilaf is one of their favorites!  I don't make pilaf as much as they would like, but when I do make it, there are no leftovers. 

I hope you get a chance to enjoy our family favorite.  You can try out the recipe yourself, and let me know what you think.  Or you can come over to our house for dinner sometime and I'll prepare a big pot of it so you can make your own pilaf mountain.  
 "mehr-Cee"  (Armenian word for Thank-you!)

Rice Pilaf:

-1/8-1/4 cup of butter/magarine/(I use 1/8c soy margarine and it works fine)
-1/2 crushed vermicelli
-1 cup long grain rice  (brown rice is OK but it might need to steam a little longer)
-2 cup chicken broth (I use organic vegetable broth and it comes out great, but the chicken broth is what Grandma and my mom usually used)
-1 tsp salt 
-1/2 tsp pepper to taste

In heavy saucepan with tight fitting lid, melt butter over medium heat.  Add vermicelli and stir constantly until lightly browned.  Add the rice and stir grains until they are coated with butter.  Add hot broth, salt and pepper.  Stir thoroughly and cover- turn heat to low and steam 30 minutes.  Do not remove lid until cooked.  When done stir to fluff.  Recover and let sit about 10 minutes more.