We eat some version of rice pilaf at least once a week. It's a quick and easily adaptable staple.
I used to always make pilaf with brown rice, cooked during Sunday meal prep, ready for the week ahead. But, I've been experimenting with other grains and black rice is a new favorite. It has a nutty flavor with a bit of aromatic spiciness. It's similar in texture to brown rice with all of the whole grain goodness, and then some. That gorgeous, natural black color means it's rich in anthocyanin antioxidants - the same found in blueberries and blackberries! I really geek out over this kind of stuff. Nature just amazes me.
I thought the nuttiness of this rice would pair really well with kale and walnuts for a pilaf that could be served as a vegetarian main (try it stuffed into a baked acorn squash!) or a side dish alongside your choice of quality protein. The cherries add a sweet/tart contrast to an otherwise earthy dish.
Black Rice Pilaf with Lacinato Kale, Walnuts, and Dried Cherries
1 cup black rice, uncooked
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. fresh thyme, minced
Several grates fresh nutmeg
1 bunch lacinato kale, finely chopped
1/4 cup dried cherries or cranberries, chopped (unsulfured, no added sugar)
1/2 cup raw walnuts, toasted + chopped
1-2 tsp. ume plum vinegar (to taste, optional)
fine sea salt (to taste)
Cook rice according to package directions, being sure to season with a good pinch of salt.
While the rice is cooking, sauté shallots with olive oil in a large skillet set to medium heat. Season with a pinch of salt, then add in garlic, thyme, and nutmeg. Cook another 60 seconds until garlic is fragrant. Add the kale along with several splashes of water and another pinch of salt. Sauté until wilted and tender, 3-4 minutes. Stir in cherries and walnuts. Add the cooked black rice and stir until well combined. Lastly, mix in the ume plum vinegar, taste, and adjust seasoning as needed.
Serve warm or room temperature.
If black rice is hard to find, you can easily make this dish with brown rice as well. I've been able to find it recently at most grocery stores, including the Walmart in my hometown. It's also easily ordered off of Amazon.
The ume plum vinegar adds such a unique flavor to this dish, but if you don't have it, try adding a few splashes Bragg's apple cider or balsamic vinegar. The extra acidity really brightens up the dish.
Try mixing things up too. I've made this dish with Swiss chard, golden raisins, and hazelnuts as well. It was equally delicious.