Category Archives: Side Dish

Saffron Rice with Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts: Recipe from an Edible Mosaic

If you are anything like me, the photo on the cover of this book made my mouth water as soon as I saw it.

The book,  An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair, was written by my friend Faith Gorsky from An Edible Mosaic . This new release is Faith’s first cookbook , and  I’m excited to be participating in her virtual book launch party and sharing a recipe from the book!

The book has over 100 Middle Eastern recipes, with a focus mainly on dishes from the Levant, but also a few recipes from other areas of the Middle East. Faith has a pretty unique story…after getting married Faith spent six months living in the Middle East, where she fell in love with the culture and cuisine. Subsequently, she returned four more times for visits, each time delving deeper into the cuisine and deepening her passion for and appreciation of the region. Recipes in her book are authentic Middle Eastern (taught to Faith mostly by her mother-in-law, Sahar), but streamlined just a bit for the way we cook today, with unique ingredients demystified and cooking techniques anyone can follow. If you didn’t grow up eating Middle Eastern food, it can be a difficult art to master; Faith understands that, and explains complicated dishes in an approachable, easy-to-follow way. The book is available to order on Amazon and Barnes & Noble!

 After you check out the recipe below, please head over to Faith’s blog to check out her virtual book launch party to see the other bloggers who are participating. Also, as part of her virtual book launch, Faith is hosting a giveaway of a fabulous set of prizes. Be sure to head over and enter!
 The recipe from the book that I’m sharing with you today is for Saffron Rice with Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts, along with a variation for Mixed White and Yellow Rice. The recipe is actually vegan so you won’t have any trouble incorporating it into a vegan or vegetarian meal, but it is just as delicious served with chicken, beef, lamb, or seafood, and it would be really fantastic with just about any curry dish. (In the cookbook, Faith recommends pairing Shrimp in Aromatic Tomato Sauce with this rice dish.)
I made this rice dish to go with one of my family’s favorite Middle Eastern dishes, Shish Taouk (chicken kebabs marinated in a yogurt/tomato/zataar mixture).
Faith’s rice dish was quick to put together, and complemented the kebabs beautifully. I can’t wait to work my way through the other recipes in the cookbook!


Saffron Rice with Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts



Recipe courtesy of An Edible Mosaic:  Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair by Faith Gorsky (Tuttle Publishing; Nov. 2012); reprinted with permission.


Serves 4 to 6

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 20 minutes, plus 15 minutes to let the rice sit after cooking


1½ cups (325 g) basmati rice, rinsed

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons pine nuts

1 onion, finely diced

4 tablespoons sultanas (golden raisins)

1¾ cups (425 ml) boiling water

¾ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon saffron threads (or ½ teaspoon turmeric)


  1. Soak the rice in tepid water for 10 minutes; drain. While the rice is soaking, put half a kettle of water on to boil.
  2. Add the oil to a medium, thick-bottomed lidded saucepan over medium heat. Add the pine nuts and cook until golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Transfer the pine nuts to a small bowl and set aside.
  3. Add the onion to the saucepan you cooked the pine nuts in, and cook until softened and just starting to brown, about 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the rice and cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the sultanas, boiling water, salt, and saffron (or turmeric), turn the heat up to high, and bring it to a rolling boil.
  4. Give the rice a stir, then cover the saucepan, turn the heat down to very low, and cook until tender, about 10 minutes (do not open the lid during this time). Turn the heat off and let the rice sit (covered) 15 minutes, then fluff with a fork.
  5. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle the toasted pine nuts on top; serve.


OPTIONAL Add two pods of cardamom, two whole cloves, and one 2-inch (5 cm) piece of cinnamon stick at the same time that you add the rice.



Mixed White and Yellow Rice


Serves 4 to 6

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 20 minutes, plus 15 minutes to let the rice sit after cooking


1½ cups (325 g) uncooked basmati rice, rinsed

2 tablespoons oil

1 onion, finely diced

1 bay leaf

2 whole cloves

2 pods cardamom, cracked open

2 whole peppercorns

¾ teaspoon salt

1¾ cups (425 ml) boiling water

1-2 pinches saffron threads or ½ teaspoon turmeric dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water


  1. Soak the rice in tepid water for 10 minutes; drain. While the rice is soaking, put half a kettle of water on to boil.
  2. Add the oil to a medium, thick-bottomed lidded saucepan, cover and place over moderately high heat. Once hot, add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the rice, bay leaf, cloves, cardamom pods, peppercorns, and salt, and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the boiling water to the rice, turn heat up to high, and bring it to a rolling boil. Give it a stir, cover the pot, turn heat down to very low, and cook 10 minutes (don’t open the lid during this time).
  4. After the rice is cooked, let the pot sit with the lid on for 15 minutes, then fluff the rice with a fork. Transfer 1/3 of the rice to a separate bowl.
  5. Stir the saffron or turmeric-colored water into 1/3 of the rice (the rice will turn yellow). Mix together the yellow rice and white rice; serve.

Taking Comfort in Polish Food: A Recipe for Kapusta

Last week I traveled to Upstate New York with my parents to say a much too early good bye to my cousin, who left behind three beautiful daughters.  Over 1,200 people attended her calling hours, which will give you an idea of the kind of person she was, and how many loved her. I have never seen anything like it.

It was an emotional few days that were filled not only with tears, but with laughter and smiles too.  Funny how even though I  may not see my extended family on a regular basis, when we all get together again we pick up just where we left off. When  it counts,  we are all there for each other, and there is comfort just in knowing that.

There is also comfort in the foods that surround this type of gathering, at least in my family anyway. Maybe it’s just an Italian thing? I don’t know, but I can tell you that from the moment we arrived there was food (really good food)  in front of me, and one of my aunts or cousins asking “Did you get something to eat?” or ” Make sure you grab a plate before you go…”  There were pasta dishes, sausage roll,  greens, tomato pie, antipasto, garlic knots, meatballs, and endless platters of Italian cookies; all familiar dishes to the small neighborhoods in which they are from. These familiar foods conjer up memories of family gatherings and help to soothe the sorrow in their own special way.

Okay, why don’t I have an Italian recipe for this post? You might be wondering that by now, with the first few photos (clearly not Chicken Riggies). Well you see, there are  Polish roots in my family too. Following my cousin’s funeral service, a reception was held at a nearby restaurant. When we walked up to the buffet, I was pleasantly surprised to see an assortment of some of my Polish favorites,  like pierogies, kielbasa, kapusta, mashed potatoes, and golumpkis. A flood of family memories rushed over me just seeing them all together in one place. This is the kind of Polish feast my grandma would put together when we all came to visit years ago. On that dark and  gloomy funeral day,  this was the stick- to -your- ribs kind of meal that offered us comfort and lifted our souls as we said our good byes.

 So today’s post is about remembering those we love, tradition, and the recipes that keep us connected to our past. While most  of what you see here on Table Talk is geared towards entertaining and dinner party fare, I still like my family comfort food, and will share it with you from time to time along the way.

Kapusta (Kah-POO-stah)  is the Polish word for cabbage. There are many variations of this dish; some using fresh cabbage, some with mushrooms and potatoes, etc…but this is not the style I grew up eating. I don’t have my grandma’s original recipe, and actually, I don’t know that she ever wrote it down. But I remember the flavor very well; it was kind of on the sweeter side. I  have made kapusta from memory like my grandma several times,  but this time around I jotted it down on paper.  So here it goes, my family recipe for kapusta. For those who share Polish roots and memories of grandma’s cooking away in the kitchen, you may like this one as much as the Golumpki recipe I posted  a few years ago. Those golumpkis continue to draw hits to my site from Google searches, so I guess I’m not the only one who loves Polish food and the memories that go along with it.



Kapusta may be served as a side dish, or used as a filling for pierogies. It is best when simmered over low heat for several hours, and even better when served the next day. For additional flavor, add smoked kielbasa (my favorite is Hapanowicz Brothers) to the kapusta during the last hour of simmering. Kielbasa (served with mustard and horseradish), kapusta, and mashed potatoes are a Popular Polish trio. 

2 tablespoons bacon drippings

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 cups finely chopped sweet onions, such as Vidalia

2 (32 ounce) packages sauerkraut, rinsed well and drained

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 3/4 cups water

Heat bacon drippings and butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add onions, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until onions are very soft and beginning to caramelize, about 15 minutes. Add drained sauerkraut, brown sugar, and water, sirring well to combine. Bring mixture up to a boil over medium high heat, then cover, reduce heat to a very low simmer and cook, stirring occasionally for 6 hours, adding additional water if necessary to keep mixture from sticking to bottom of pan. Adjust seasonings.

6-8 servings


White Asparagus with Tarragon Cream and Toasted Bread Crumbs

Green asparagus or white. What’s the difference?

Unlike green asparagus, which is grown above ground, white asparagus (also known as spargel in Germany) is grown underground (see photos below, courtesy of  Deprived from light, the  development of chlorophyll is prevented, and rather than turning green,  the asparagus remains an elegant shade of ivory.  Just as the tips of white asparagus break through the surface of the soil, they are quickly harvested (by hand) and sold  in roadside stands and markets in northern Europe.  In some cases, the tips are allowed a brief amount of sun to gain a bit of green accent against  the white stalks. Though similar in flavor to grassy undertones in green asparagus, the white variety tends to be a bit more tender and delicate  in flavor.

Until recently, finding fresh white asparagus in the US was a difficult task. But now, white asparagus is harvested domestically from March to early May, and may be picked up (if you are lucky!) in your local farmer’s markets. If this is not the case for you (or me), you may purchase imported European white asparagus, or will find imported varieties from Peru at your grocery store.

I was in Pawleys Island, SC (in the middle of my tour with Friends at the Table) during the time I was working on this post, and after a trip to 3 different stores, good old Piggly Wiggly came through for me, at a time I thought I would be special ordering from the produce department. I’m pretty sure I embarrassed my dad (who I was with in the store) when I let out a squeal of excitement upon spotting it! A few ladies resembling Driving Miss Daisy looked over at me like I had been drinking some spiked sweet tea.

Wishing to truly showcase the flavor of the white asparagus, I decided to create a sauce made with European butter and fresh tarragon to glam it up a bit. The toasty crumbs add the contrasting texture it needs, and is rich enough to stand alone as an entree. You could also add a sprinkle of sauteed pancetta as well if you like.

If you have never tried white asparagus, I hope you will go on the hunt for some and try some of the amazing recipes my blogger friends have come up with for this month’s 5 Star Makeover. Be sure to stop by 5 Star Foodie or Lazaro Cooks! sites for the roundup on Friday!



You’ll need to peel the asparagus prior to cooking, removing the tougher exterior of the stalk.

To prevent the fragile tips from breaking off during the cooking process, cook in an upright asparagus basket, or, tie the asparagus in bundles with cotton twine, and lower into a pot of vigorously simmering (but not boiling) water.

White Asparagus with Herbed Cream and Toasted Bread Crumbs

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups  1/2-inch artisan bread cubes

2 pounds fresh white asparagus

2 teaspoons salt

4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup dry white wine
2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup heavy cream

1 stick unsalted butter,   cut into tablespoons

3 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon

2 tablespoons minced chives

Salt and pepper


For toasted bread crumbs:

Place bread cubes in the bowl of a food processor and process into fine crumbs. Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat. Add bread crumbs to pan;  stirring constantly, until bread crumbs are golden brown, about 4 minutes. Reserve crumbs until ready to use.

For the white asparagus:

Bring  water to a boil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add salt and lemon juice lemon juice. Meanwhile, trim about 1/2″ from the ends of the asparagus. Lay spears on a work surface, then peel thin skin from each with a sharp  vegetable
peeler, starting 1 1/2″ from the top and running the length of the spear. Add peeled asparagus to boiling water, and reduce heat to medium, maintaining a steady simmer. Cook until tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, 8–20 minutes, depending on thickness. Lift asparagus from  water and drain on paper towels.

Meanwhile,  boil wine and shallots in a medium heavy pan over medium-high heat until reduced by three-quarters, 10–15 minutes. Add cream and reduce again by half, 5–7 minutes; reduce heat to low. Add butter to pan one tablespoon at a time, whisking  until smooth.  Whisk in herbs, then add salt and pepper to taste.

Place cooked/drained asparagus in a large serving bowl. Add cream sauce, and toss well. Sprinkle with toasted bread crumbs.

Makes 6 servings