Morassa' polo (bejeweled pilaf)

Yield: 6 servings

Measure Ingredient
2¾ cup Basmati rice, rinsed in 5 or 6 changes of water
¼ cup Salt
2 pounds Carrots, peeled and cut in julienne
6 tablespoons Oil
\N \N Liquid Saffron
2 tablespoons Slivered almonds
2 tablespoons Slivered pistachios
\N \N Peel of 3 oranges, julienned
2 tablespoons Currants
¼ cup Dried barberries (zereshk)
\N dash Ground cinnamon
\N dash Ground cardamom
1 teaspoon Rose water
¼ cup Butter
4 teaspoons Crushed crystallized sugar or rock candy (opt)

"The Legendary Cuisine of Persia" by Margaret Shields, would accompany roast lamb or chicken or occupy center stage at a Near Eastern banquet.

Cover rinsed rice with water by at least 1". Add 1 tablespoon salt.

Soak 3 hours.

In skillet, fry carrot strips in 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat, stirring constantly, 10 minutes. Stir in 1 teaspoon granulated sugar, 2 teaspoon Liquid Saffron and 2-3 tablespoons water. Cook until liquid is reduced, 4-5 minutes. Remove carrot strips to bowl and set aside.

In skillet, toast 1 teaspoon almonds over medium heat. Set aside for garnish. Put remaining almonds and all pistachios in small saucepan, cover with cold water, bring to boil and drain. Set aside. Combine 1 teaspoon blanched almonds, 1 teaspoon blanched pistachios and reserved toasted almonds for garnish.

Put remaining granulated sugar in small saucepan with 6 tablespoons water. Bring slowly to boil and simmer gently 10 minutes. Add orange peel and remaining blanched nuts and boil 30 seconds. Drain, reserving syrup. Add peel and nuts to fried carrot strips.

Soak currants in warm water 10 minutes until puffed and shining.

Drain. Separate 1 teaspoon currants for garnish and add remainder to carrot strip mixture. Pick over barberries, then gently fry in skillet in small amount of oil until glowing red color, 1-2 minutes.

Separate 1 teaspoon barberries for garnish and add remainder to carrot strip mixture. Stir cinnamon, cardamom and rose water into carrot strip mixture and divide mixture into 3 parts.

In 3 quart saucepan add 2 quarts water and 3 tablespoons salt and bring to rapid boil. Drain soaked rice. Add to saucepan, bring back to boil and boil until grains are soft on outside but still firm in center, 2-3 minutes. Drain in colander and rinse with lukewarm water.

Toss gently in colander.

Rinse saucepan, return to heat, add some oil and heat until sizzling.

Sprinkle ¼ of rice over bottom of saucepan. Spread ½ of carrot mixture on rice. Sprinkle ¼ of rice over carrot mixture. Repeat with remaining carrot mixture and rice, ending with thick layer of rice formed into conical mound. Pour remaining syrup and 4 teaspoons Liquid Saffron over rice. Make 2-3 holes through rice to bottom of saucepan with handle of wooden spoon. Spread clean dishcloth over edges of saucepan and set cover firmly over dishcloth.

Keep heat on high until rice is steaming, 2-3 minutes, then reduce heat to low and cook at least 30 minutes. Rice can be kept on very lowest heat as long as 1½ hours total.

Remove saucepan from heat and set on cold, wet surface 1-2 minutes.

(This helps loosen bottom crust.) Meanwhile, melt butter. Remove 2-3 tablespoons rice and mix with remaining 2 tablespoons Liquid Saffron in small bowl and set aside.

Gently toss and mix pilaf, leaving crust in pot, and sprinkle on warmed dish in symmetrical mound. Sprinkle with saffron rice. Garnish with reserved almonds (both toasted and blanched), pistachios, currants and barberries.

Crush crystallized sugar into small "diamonds," mix with ½ teaspoon boiling water and sprinkle over rice. Pour melted butter all over.

Remove bottom crust (tah dig) from pot and serve on separate plate.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Each of 4 servings contains about: 967 calories; 1,658 milligrams sodium; 31 milligrams cholesterol; 38 grams fat; 149 grams carbohydrates; 13 grams protein; 3.15 grams fiber.

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