ONE OF MY FONDEST FOOD MEMORIES STARTS IN THE FREEZER AISLE.
It's a frozen veggie pilau. Not even fancy veggies. Just that nondescript bag of diced carrots, corn, green beans, peas, and lima beans. Likely the one that you have incurring freezer burn in your own icebox at the moment - and even more likely the bag you skip over when you go for the more sexy frozen veggies available today. Growing up in the 70's and 80's in Pennsylvania - that was pretty much all that was there. And, it was perfectly paired with basmati rice in many Indian-American homes. My theory is that it was the go-to whenever our moms got too tired to cook. Semi-gourmet. Kind of Indian. Delicious without all the chopping. And perfect for a lazy Sunday brunch (before we knew to call it that) paired with flavorful raita. When I share the story with non-Indian friends they always reply, 'really? I mean, really?'. But, my Indian-American friends know. They squeal with joy remembering their own freezer-food memory. Give it a try - you may be pleasantly surprised.
Frozen Veggie Pilau with Cumin and Basmati Rice
1 teaspoon ghee or oil
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 cinnamon stick
5 whole cloves
2 cups frozen veggies, partially defrosted
1 cup basmati rice
1 - 2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups water
Heat oil in a medium-sized pot over medium-high heat. Once warm, add cumin, cinnamon, and cloves. Cook 40 seconds until the spices bloom and the seeds sizzle.
Add vegetables. Cook 1 minute. Stir.
Add rice and salt. Stir. Add water.
Bring to a boil. Turn heat down. Place lid on pot slightly ajar and simmer for 11 minutes.
Turn heat off. Adjust lid to cover the pot completely and let sit for 3 to 5 minutes.
Notes: This one took me a few tries to perfect. I started with just 1/2 cup of veggies. If you do that, my mom explained, then you really just have rice with a few veggies. You need to boost the amount of veggies you use. I also started with 2 cups of water because you typically need that much for basmati rice. But, because there is moisture in frozen veggies the rice was coming out soggy. If you adjust it down by a 1/2 cup you've got perfect rice.