This is really a take on my favorite recipe for Lenten Lebanese-style grape leaf stuffing. Lenten grape leaves are my favorite - I love them MUCH more than the meat and rice ones, but I find rolling grape leaves a real time-consuming pain. So, I decided to adapt the recipe to a pilaf - all the flavor, none of the work! Just the kind of recipe that I like!
Arabic Cabbage and Rice Pilaf
1 or 2 coarsely chopped onions
2 or 3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil - the flavor of the oil is important in this dish
8 oz finely shredded cabbage
1 tsp salt
1 tsp allspice, nutmeg and cinnamon mixed (can use apple pie spice)
1 to 2 tsp dried mint
2 Tbs dried parsley, or 1/4 C minced fresh
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 C pine nuts, toasted (I used sunflower seeds as a substitute)
1 - 15 oz can of chopped tomatoes in juice
1 - 15 oz can chickpeas
1/2 C raisins
1 1/2 C white rice
Lemon or lime juice to taste
Using a 4 or 5 quart pot, saute the onion in the oil over high heat until beginning to brown, then add the cabbage, salt, mint, parsley, Arabic spices, pepper and thyme until the cabbage is wilted and beginning to carmelize a bit. By this time, the onions will be somewhat carmelized. Drain the chickpeas and add to pot. Drain the tomatoes, reserving the juice, and add the tomatoes to the pot. Stir well. Add the rice and stir well, adding a dash more of olive oil if needed. Add the raisins and stir. To the reserved tomato juice, add enough water to make 3 cups, and pour over all, stirring well to combine. Bring to simmer, cover tightly, lower heat to a low simmer, and cook rice for 25 minutes until tender. Fluff with a fork. Squeeze half a lemon or lime over each portion.
Note: Since 1979, I've used a mixture of allspice, nutmeg and cinnamon which I call Arabic spices. Last year, I ran out while cooking, and a search of my spice shelf yielded no nutmeg either, but I did have a small container of apple pie spice. It smelled the same.... I stuck my finger in, and it tasted the same.... So, I used it in the recipe -- and it tasted precisely the same! And, its a lot cheaper to buy it already mixed than to mix it myself, so that's what I do nowadays.
Lemon juice and lime juice work equally well in this recipe, and its very tasty without any citrus as well. If you don't use citrus, you may need to up the salt. Garnish each portion with toasted nuts.
If you are doing an olive oil fast, just saute the onions and cabbage in some veggie broth, making sure that all the broth is absorbed before going on with the recipe. Or, you could just dump everything in a rice cooker and let 'er rip! I've done that with excellent success, too!
This makes a delicious main course pilaf. Serve with a fruity white wine and a lemony salad for a complete meal.