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Brown Rice Pilaf with Green Olives and Lemon

Montreal was an amazing place to eat, but after a trip in which I ate poutine, croissants, fried pork, steak and more bacon than I care to admit, I was in need of some serious dietary improvements. I came home craving fruits, vegetables and whole grains. This is pretty much the state I am in at the end of all travels. Too much enjoyment of the local cuisine and I feel a strong desire to balance things out. The first thing I made for us was this very simple brown rice pilaf with green olives, lemon and a sprinkle of goat cheese.

I found this recipe in the current issue of Food & Wine which I picked up in the airport on my way to Canada. Sitting on the airplane 36,000 feet from dinner, the pilaf seemed like heaven. I discovered the recipe again on my return flight and was excited to get back to my kitchen and give it a try. It was the perfect post-vacation dinner served with a generous amount of salad. The cooking technique turns the rice into an almost creamy risotto-like dish which is accented by the salty olives and tangy goat cheese. It is totally satisfying and a great recipe to keep on hand for the next time you return home from good travels.

Brown Rice Pilaf with Green Olives and Lemon (adapted from Food & Wine, August 2009)

In a large saucepan, heat the 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the onions and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 8 minutes. Add the water, rice, thyme and bay leaf and bring to a boil for 1 minute. Remove from the heat, cover and let stand for 30 minutes.

Stir 1 tablespoon of salt into the rice. Cover and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until most of the water has been absorbed, about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat; discard the bay leaf and thyme. Stir in the olives, chopped basil, lemon juice and lemon zest and season with salt and pepper. Spoon the rice into bowls. Drizzle with olive oil and garnish with the goat cheese and basil leaves; serve.

***This makes a lot of rice. Like 12 servings. You may want to cut the recipe in half. Also, feel free to experiment with this, I think other things could make their way into the rice.