This pilaf is traditionally used as a filling for stuffed grape leaves, stuffed peppers, and other “dolmas” in Turkey. Known as Iç Pilavı in Turkish, it is equally delicious eaten on its own without being used as a stuffing. Take a few minutes to gather all the ingredients before heating the oil, and this dish will come together quickly. Once the cinnamon and allspice hit the pan, along with fresh dill and mint, you will decide, or rather your nose will decide, that you have made the right decision in making Selva’s Summer Pilaf. The raisins add sweetness, the pine nuts add crunch, and the herbs and spices meld into an aroma that will have family members finding their way into the kitchen to see if dinner is ready yet.
This recipe makes a good portion, either for feeding a crowd, or for lunches for the week. If you don’t want a big pot of rice, halve the recipe. The method of covering it with a towel at the end of cooking is not to be skipped. I have found this method used across many cultures, and I am told it helps the rice grains to not stick together, but rather each individual grain of rice can shine on its own.
This dish is named after my aunt, who is technically a long-lost cousin that got back in touch with my immediate family after a few years of being out of touch. Selva is my dad’s first cousin, loves to cook, and I love when she comes to visit, because she loves to cook just as much as I do–it is here the family resemblance shines through.
Selva's Summer Pilaf
Currants may be used in place of the chopped raisins in this recipe.
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1.5-2 cups diced yellow or white onion
- 1/2 cup pine nuts*
- 1/2 cup raisins, roughly chopped
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups long grain white rice (jasmine or basmati)
- 1/2 cup fresh chopped dill, divided
- 1/2 cup fresh chopped mint, divided OR 2 Tablespoons dry mint
- 3 cups water, or according to rice package instructions
Heat oil over medium heat in pan with tight fitting lid. Add onions and saute in until translucent, about 7 minutes. Add pine nuts and stir until lightly colored. Add raisins, spices, salt and pepper, and rice, saute for 3-4 minute on medium heat. Stir in half of the dill and mint, if using dried mint add it all here. Add water to the pan. Bring to a boil, stir, cover, and lower the flame and cook till no liquid is left and there are some holes in rice, according to package instructions, usually 15-20 minutes.
Turn off, remove from heat, remove the lid, and cover the pot with a clean kitchen towel. Put the lid back on over the towel and let it sit for 15-20 min with lid on. Then add the second part of fresh dill and fresh mint (if using) and stir. You can add a little sugar if needed, raisins are usually enough for the sweetness. Taste to adjust seasoning for salt.