red pepper & balsamic pilaf

March 11, 2013 § 2 Comments


As a kid I can always remember having a bunch of options at the dinner table. There was a grain, protein and big salad, every night. I admire my mom for taking that much time to make us so many things to choose from. At the time, I didn’t always eat everything she made, but I can appreciate the effort now.


I found as soon as I started cooking in my own house that making a bunch of different sides every night was not only exhausting, it was way too much food. I would have a whole week of prepared food in my fridge after cooking one night, which doesn’t sound horrible, but when it’s the same thing four days straight, it’s not pleasant. So I quickly moved to making one dish a night that tried to incorporate everything together.

One of the go to grains of my childhood was rice pilaf. It’s a flavor that I never out grew. I don’t buy it regularly, but when I do, I wonder why I don’t always keep it in the house. It’s great on it’s own, I could eat a whole bowl of it, but I found a great recipe to add some lovely additions, which make it a real meal.


You’ll find that I add balsamic and olive oil to most things, it’s a flavor profile that works well with a wide variety of ingredients. It adds just enough kick to this recipe and the red pepper is the perfect crunch. Rekindling childhood memories is always enjoyable cooking, so when I need a taste of home I put a big pot of rice pilaf on the stove and let the water do the rest.


This recipe is inspired by Kashi’s Mediterranean Rice Pilaf
Serves 4, with a little something else on the side.

1 box of rice pilaf (Near East is my favorite)
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1 red pepper, diced
1/2 cup zucchini, diced*
1/4 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced

2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tablespoon dried thyme
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
touch of salt and pepper

In a medium pot, bring 1 3/4 cup of water and 1/2 tablespoon of oil to a boil. Add the contents of the rice pilaf and make sure the water returns to a boil before covering and simmering on low for 20-25 minutes.

While the rice is cooking, in a small sauté pan, toast the almonds over medium heat, until they are lightly browned; stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and let cool.

In a small bowl, mix all the dressing ingredients together: garlic, thyme, olive oil, balsamic, salt and pepper.

In a large serving bowl, combine the rice, red pepper and onion. Then pour in the dressing and mix until combined. Toss in the sliced basil and almonds. Serve warm.

*You’ll notice in the recipe I made, I used red onion instead of zucchini. I have made this recipe a few times and have decided that I much prefer the zucchini. The red onion is a bit overpowering. If you are an onion fan, you don’t need more than a 1/4 of a cup!


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