Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Beet and Saffron Rice Timbale with Spinach and Leeks

Ms. Eating the Scenery is smitten.  She stumbled across this chef who, apparently, has been cooking in England for some time without Ms. Eating the Scenery's knowledge.  What a funny name he has!  And how creative are his culinary combinations!  Quinoa and fennel salad with mint, coriander and dill!  Lentils, radiccho and walnuts with manuka honey! 

Ms. Eating the Scenery is the devoted slave of anyone who can find new and tasty, nay, soaringly scrumptious dishes using vegetables, herbs, grains, nuts, legumes in simple yet magical ways! 

Even Ottolenghi's recipes, however, are but a starting point.  Inspiring, but endlessly revisable.  Which of course all truly great recipes are.  Ms. Eating the Scenery's addition of leeks to the sauteed spinach, she thinks, elevated this dish to truly splendid.  Her sidestepping of several of the more fussy steps resulted in a different looking dish than Ottolenghi's, but it satisfied on every level of taste.

Next time, Ms. Eating the Scenery will consider assembling this dish in a glass casserole in reverse order, so that it looks neat and contained, showing off its colorful layers.  
Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi

3/4 teaspoon saffron threads
1/4 cup boiling water

3 medium beets (but roast a few more while you're at it, for pickled beets)
2 teaspoons olive oil
Salt and pepper

2 cups basmati rice
1 teaspoon salt
Grated peel of one lemon
Freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons butter
1 or 2 leeks, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
8 to 10 ounces spinach, washed and spun (thick stems removed)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt and pepper

Pour the boiling water over the saffron in a small cup or bowl.  Leave to infuse.

Wash the beets and either trim the stalks off or leave an inch or so on.  Lay beets in a Pyrex baking dish, add a quarter inch or so of water, cover the dish with foil, and roast the beets at 350 degrees for an hour or so.  If beets are varying sizes, some may need to be removed before others are done.  Beets should be tender when pierced with a knife.

Alternatively, wrap the beets in aluminum foil and roast for the same amount of time.

Cool the beets, rub the peelings off (a paper towel works nicely for this) and dice them in 1/2-inch-or-so sized chunks.  In a bowl, toss the diced beets with the olive oil, salt and pepper.

Rinse the basmati rice 'til the water runs clear.  Cook according to package directions, adding the 1 teaspoon salt, until rice is fluffy and liquid is gone.  Stir in the lemon peel and pepper.

In medium or large-ish skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.  Saute the leeks until they begin to soften.  Add the spinach, and continue to cook until spinach is comfortably wilted.  Sprinkle chopped garlic over, and salt and pepper to taste, and stir. Cook just a few minutes more, then remove from heat.

For timbale, butter a 3-quart round or oval dish well.  Lay the beets in the bottom.  Cover with half the rice, pressing down firmly.  Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of saffon water over rice.  Layer the spinch on next, followed by the remaining rice.  Press it down firmly.  Sprinkle remaining saffron water over rice.

Quickly and carefully unmold the timbale onto a serving platter.  Alternatively, layer everything in reverse order, ending up with beets on top, and serve like a casserole.

Makes 6 servings

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