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Garden Variety: Cooking your way out of the CSA box 

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Does the weekly CSA box make you feel like a contestant on Iron Chef? The unknown ingredients? The suspense? The following recipe looks daunting, it's not. Serve with steamed broccoli or roasted broccoli with baby garlic.

Persian Rice

3 cups basmati rice

2 tbsps. + 1 tsp sea salt

4 tbsp. olive oil

1 large onion, peeled and diced finely

5 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

½ tsp. pepper

1 tsp. paprika

½ lb spinach or other leafy greens, washed and chopped

2 tbsps. butter

1 bunch fresh basil, roughly chopped

1 bunch fresh mint, roughly chopped

2 cups plain yogurt

Wash rice in warm water until water runs clear. Soak 6 to 8 hours or overnight in cold water with 1 tbsp. of salt, o r soak in lukewarm salted water for 30 to 45 minutes.

Heat a large heavy-bottomed skillet and add 2 tbsps. olive oil and the onions. Cook over medium heat until the onions become clear, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, 1 tsp. salt, pepper and paprika and continue cooking, stirring often until aromas are released. Add the greens and cool 3 to 5 minutes stirring often, until the greens are wilted and the pan is almost dry. Set aside until the rice is ready.

Boil 2½ quarts of water with 1 tbsp. salt, drain rice and add to boiling water. Return to a boil and cook 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Rice should be cooked except in the very center. Strain and rinse rice with warm water, shaking gently to remove excess water.

In a large soup pot with a tight-fitting lid, melt the butter with the remaining olive oil. Add 2 tbsps. of water and sprinkle cooked rice evenly onto the bottom of the pot, one spoonful at a time until 2/3 of the rice has been used. Spread the spinach mixture over the rice and cover with the remaining rice, mounding slightly in the center. Using the handle of a wooden spoon, poke about 5 holes in the rice, all the way to the bottom of the pot, for steam to escape. Cover the pot with a thick cotton dishtowel and put the lid on tightly. Cook over medium-low heat 35 to 40 minutes.

Fill the sink with cold water. Remove the cover from rice and prepare a large, round platter. Place the pot in the sink for 30 seconds. Remove and dry the bottom of the pot. Invert pot onto platter. Rice cake should unmold itself in one piece and be golden brown.

Mix the chopped herbs with yogurt and serve on the side of each serving of rice.


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