Persian Pomegranate Rice

Enjoy a flavorful, traditional dish for the New Year.

Online Jewish Week Columnist
Photo Galleria: 

Pomegranates are both a beautiful, symbolic food for the upcoming Rosh HaShanah holiday, the Jewish New Year, and a traditional Persian ingredient. So I thought they would be a perfect pairing in a rice dish - a staple in Persian households - spiced with classic Persian seasonings. Turmeric, cumin and cinnamon are all ingredients in adwiya, the classic Persian spice mix.

Basmati rice is both said to be a very close approximation of the rice available in Iran and a variety I find fairly easy to cook. Toasting the rice along with the spices in the dish brings out their flavor in a big way and fills the house with a delicious aroma.

These days you can buy pomegranate arils that have already been removed from the fruit, but I think that way you're missing all the fun (and you can't count to see if it has 613 seeds). I've tried every method under the sun for easier deseeding - doing it underwater, using the back of a spoon to thwack the pomegranate - but ultimately I found that cracking it open into sections and using my fingers to gently pry the seeds out of the fruit is the most effective avenue.

Happy New Year!

Amy Spiro is a journalist and writer based in Jerusalem. She is a graduate of the Jerusalem Culinary Institute's baking and pastry track, a regular writer for The Jerusalem Post and blogs at She also holds a BA in Journalism and Politics from NYU.

1 cup slivered almonds
2 cups basmati rice
2 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon cumin
2 2/3 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups pomegranate arils
additional salt and pepper to taste
Recipe Steps: 
Toast the almonds in an ungreased skillet over medium heat, stirring regularly, until starting to brown, 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
Rinse the rice until the water runs clear. Add the rice to a medium to large pot and toast, dry, just so the rice dries out post-rinsing. After 2-3 minutes add the oil, turmeric, cinnamon and cumin and stir to combine. Continue to toast the rice until the spices become fragrant, 10 to 12 minutes.
Add the boiling water to the pot along with the salt, lower to medium-low heat and cover. Cook 8 to 12 minutes until all the water is absorbed.
Remove from the heat and fluff with a fork. Stir in the almonds and pomegranate arils, and season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve chilled or warm, depending on your preference.

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