Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Rice Pilaf with Chickpeas and Spring Vegetables

My dear fun sister Lisa is graduating from college next week, and what would graduation be without a party to celebrate? My mother has relinquished cooking responsibilities for her graduation party to Lisa and I, our family's resident foodies. I love planning and cooking for parties so it wasn't long before we started brainstorming ideas, some of which will surely appear here after the fact. Among those ideas was a light pasta with spring vegetables, which transformed into a rice pilaf instead, because I have a hard time warming up to tomato-sauce-less pasta. I made a test run tonight, and the healthful combination of rice, chickpeas, and tender green vegetables was so wonderful that this one is being added to my rotation.

Spring garlic, also known as green garlic, has just come into season and is making the rounds on the blogosphere. I was eager to try it when I saw it at Union Square today, especially because I figured it would go perfectly in the rice pilaf I had planned for dinner. Spring garlic looks, slices, and cooks like the texture of a small leek, but with a sharper garlic taste and smell. I wasn't sure if I could cook the whole plant, since google resulted in conflicting advice. In his artful New York Times article, Daniel Patterson seems to be telling us only to use the white and light green parts. Meanwhile, Farmgirl Fare encourages us to go ahead and use the whole thing. So I did what seemed right, which was to use the whole stalk, minus the tough outer dark green leaves. Someone correct me if I'm wrong.

This dish is brilliant and warm and very green, like early spring. The creamy chickpeas, heightened by an hour of simmering and a bright tinge of lemon, contrasted perfectly with crunches of asparagus and mouthfuls of soft rice. It would have been more perfect if I were capable of cooking fluffy rice instead of the gummy wet rice that always comes out of my saucepans, but that's a challege for another day. I used a mixture of brown short grain rice and black himalayan rice, lending it a colorfully dark hue, but any rice that pleases you would suit this, as would bulgur or orzo I think.

Likewise, other spring vegetables such as peas or fava beans (which are not yet in season here in New York) would also do well in this dish. I couldn't much discern the green garlic, but I'm sure it helped things along. The parsley came from my herb garden, where it is flourishing over all the other herbs, straight on its way to becoming a veritable bush of parsley. And the cheese is optional, but cheese makes everything better, don't you think? I was out of parmesan, so I used a sharp Edam-like cheese, or a swiss cheese would work.

Rice Pilaf with Chickpeas and Spring Vegetables

3/4 cup dried chickpeas
1 cup rice
2 stalks spring garlic
1 bunch asparagus
couple handfuls baby bok choy
1 tsp lemon juice

The day before or that morning, place chickpeas in a pot covered with a couple inches of water to let soak.

After 6-24 hours, drain chickpeas, rinse, and return to pot. Refill with water, again covering chickpeas by a couple inches, and add a pinch of salt to water. Bring to a boil and then let simmer 45-90 minutes until chickpeas are tender. Drain and set aside.

Just after starting chickpeas, combine rice with 2 cups water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and let simmer until rice is tender.

While chickpeas and rice simmer away, clean spring garlic as you would leeks and dice its stalks, discarding tough dark green leaves. Sautee spring garlic in olive oil over medium low heat.

Rinse asparagus and break off woody ends where the asparagus naturally breaks in your hand. (Reserve ends for future use, such as soup or dip.) Chop asparagus into one-inch pieces and sautee with garlic for a couple minutes.

Rinse and roughly chop baby bok choy and add to sautee pan. Continue to sautee another few minutes until wilted.

Combine chickpeas and rice in pan with vegetables. Stir in lemon juice and salt pepper and pepper to taste. Add grated cheese, if desired, and garnish with parsley.


  1. This totally filled me up in the yummyist way. Good job! I loved the addition of a little cheese too.

  2. can we make this for my party !?