Spiced Broccoli with Caramelized Onions and Brown Basmati
Simply Delicious: with Cinnamon, Cloves, Cardamom Pods, Cumin, and Mustard Seeds.
For most of my life, my first impulse when sitting down to a meal was to reach for the salt.
Now I’m shaking my salt habit. Holding back my reflexive reach for the saltshaker is a good place to start. But I’ve also been exploring recipes from various ethnic traditions—including West African, Indian, Syrian, and Latin American—that teach me how to build flavor in other ways.
That’s sent me on some scouting expeditions for ingredients that are off the beaten path, like Scotch bonnet peppers, cardamom pods, or pomegranate molasses. My recent trip to Dual Specialty, an Indian grocer in New York City’s East Village, was an eye-opener. So many foods and spices to explore-but because I was in a hurry, so little time. I had to stick to my list and go, but I could have spent a lot longer scoping out the place. Ashwagandha Powder? Blessed Thistle Herb Powder? Kudzu Root? What does one make with those?
Whether you source your ingredients in a bricks and mortar store as I did or online, there’s a world of flavor out there. The cardamom pods I picked up on my trip will factor in a few recipes I have lined up, starting with today’s recipe: Brown Basmati with Caramelized Onions and Broccoli from Vikas Khanna’s cookbook, “Flavors First,” published by Lake Isle Press. After making this gem of a dish I decided it should have a slightly different name, and I used that in my headline.
I chose to cut the recipe in half when making it; I was sorry I did. It was so good I wanted more leftovers. The earthiness of the rice, the jammy sweetness of the onions (the recipe adds a touch of sugar), the tanginess of the broccoli—all the flavors came through and were delightfully balanced. I salted the rice as directed, but the onions and broccoli rely on other spices, no salt needed. Mission accomplished. By the way, the aroma was heavenly.
Although it’s a simple recipe, prep for the combined components took a little time, but I can see a few shortcuts. It’s great with brown basmati, but I suspect it would work with a lot of other kinds of rice, so make extras whenever you cook some and freeze for later. Making extra caramelized onions and freezing them also cuts a step. Preparing the broccoli itself is easy; chop it up and sauté with cumin seeds, mustard seeds and garam masala. If that’s all you have to do, it’s a snap to make. And a treat to eat.
Brown Basmati with Caramelized Onions and Broccoli
1 ½ cups brown basmati rice, rinsed and drained
2 ¾ cups water
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 cardamom pods
One 1-inch cinnamon stick
6 whole cloves
4 small red onions, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 small head broccoli, cut into ½-inch florets
1 teaspoon garam masala
Rinse the rice under cold running water, drain. Soak the rice in cold water for 1 hour. Drain and set aside.
In a saucepan with a lid over high heat, combine the rice, water and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until all the water has been absorbed and the rice is tender, 30 to 35 minutes. Do not stir the rice while it is cooking. Remove from the heat and rest about 5 minutes.
Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large nonstick saucepan over medium-high heat and cook the cardamom pods, cinnamon and cloves, stirring, for about 30 seconds. Add the onions, sprinkle the sugar over the onions and cook until brown, stirring as needed, 7 to 8 minutes. Using a slotted spatula, remove half the onions, drain them on paper towels and reserve for garnish.
In a small saucepan, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil and add the cumin and mustard seeds; they should sputter upon contact with the hot oil. Lower the heat and cover the pan until the sputtering subsides. Quickly add the broccoli florets and garam masala and the remaining onions and spices and stir for about 2 minutes. Transfer the rice to a serving platter and lightly mix in the broccoli.
Serve garnished with the reserved caramelized onions.
Recipe reprinted from ”Flavors First” by Vikas Khanna, Lake Isle Press, 2011
Originally published at https://www.lakeislepress.com on September 17, 2020.