…it's like nothing else than a light and fluffy, slightly sweet but mostly savoury dinner cake spooned into the most astonishing little morsels on your plate. If this picture sounds inadequate it's because this dish pretty much exhausts my powers of description. But don't let that stop you — this rice, adapted from Martha Rose Shulman's Mediterranean Harvest, is a perfect accompaniment to any light and garlicky Mediterranean summer meal, like the Turkish yogurt hummus I served with fresh vegetables.
Look for dried sour cherries, also known as Morello cherries, in most large grocery stores and in natural food stores. Readers in London, Ontario can obtain them at Quarter Master in Wortley Village.
Turkish sour cherry pilaf
1 1/4 cups basmati rice
1 cup (about 3 1/2 oz. or 100 g) dried sour cherries
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon demerara or rapadura sugar
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
2 1/4 cups water
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup whole-fat yogurt, drained in cheesecloth for several hours or overnight
Thoroughly rinse the rice under cold running water for several minutes until the water runs clear. Let stand in a strainer for half an hour or longer to air dry. Meanwhile soak the dried cherries for 10 minutes in hot water, then drain and set aside.
Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the cherries and sugar and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, giving the pan frequent but gentle shakes. Stir in the rice and caraway seeds to coat the grains with butter, then add the water and stir in the salt. Raise the heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes undisturbed.
Remove from heat, remove the lid, and cover the pan with a dishtowel. Put the lid back on and let sit for 15 more minutes, undisturbed.
Serve warm on bowls or plates with yogurt if desired. Serves 6 to 8.