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Rice in the Sahara

from “Feeding the Hungry Ghost: Life, Faith and What to Eat for Dinner”


  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 3 cups vegetable broth or water
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion sliced
  • Pinch of saffron
  • 1/2 cup red lentils
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 3 dried Medjool dates chopped
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper


  • Preheat the oven to 375°F. Pour the almonds in a shallow oven-proof pan and toast until they just turn golden and are fragrant, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the almonds to a small bowl to cool.
  • In a medium saucepan, bring 2 cups of the vegetable broth or water to a boil over high heat. Add the rice, cover, and reduce the heat to low. Simmer just until the rice absorbs the liquid and leans toward tenderness, about 30 minutes. (It will continue cooking later.) Remove from the heat and let cool. (The rice can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a day or two; bring to room temperature before proceeding with the recipe.)
  • In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and stir until evenly coated. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook about 20 minutes. The onion will still be pale and will have thrown off quite a lot of liquid. This is good. Add the saffron and raise the heat to medium.
  • Add the red lentils to the onions and stir to combine. Add the remaining 1 cup broth, cover again, and continue cooking. Red lentils cook speedily — 10 to 15 minutes. Check them after 12 minutes. They should be pale rosy and tender, not mushy.
  • Add the cinnamon stick to the onion-lentil mixture, and stir in the allspice, cooked rice, and dates. Season with plenty of salt and pepper.
  • Heat over medium heat for a few minutes, stirring to combine, until heated through. Just before serving, stir in the toasted almonds for a nice crunch.