This recipe for sweet potato rice pilaf is brought to you by the fact that I’ve never really liked cauliflower rice.
I mean, I’ve made it, I’ve eaten it, I’ve even found ways to make it pretty tasty. But I just don’t like it that much. You know what has always been missing? CARBS, MY FRIENDS.
I like cauliflower. (Vegetarian-on-a-constant-starvation-diet-Me is looking at me like, “whut?!” right now.)
I especially love it roasted and char-y and aggressively spiced because that’s what gives it the flavor & texture it lacks in its unadorned-as-a-newborn-baby form. But chop that sucker into tiny bits and smoosh it round a pan and call it rice? Eh, I should have called BS on that stuff a long time ago.
So, carbs. I like ’em. Sweet potato rice has ’em. But it’s also got a lovely, as close to an al dente kind of texture you can get with vegetables, thing that to my mind makes cauliflower rice go cry in the corner.
And it makes for a much more satisfying vegetable rice experience. Especially when you go all Mediterranean up in this pilaf.
I wanted to whip up the kind of carby-yet-light kind of side dish that goes well with other meats and main dishes without being super overpowering. And you really can’t go wrong with the way that I’ve loaded up this sweet potato rice pilaf with fragrant lemon, briny olives, tangy capers and a swish of lightly-sweet golden raisins, all swirled together with fresh parsley throughout.
Because I wanted as close to a neutral flavored base to this dish as possible, I’ve made my sweet potato rice using white sweet potato here. You can make it with the sweeter, orange varieties, but it’s going to be much less savory and you would likely need to season it much more aggressively to avoid it being too sweet. In that case, I’d personally skip the raisins and double down with extra lemon zest and herbs.
This is the kind of food that’s perfect for cookouts that are starting to happen in full swing. It can hang out with the salads, take on sides to make a mezze style meal or stand up to big ol’ grilled proteins. The other nice thing about this sweet potato rice pilaf is that you can whip it up ahead of time, then serve it chilled after a little travel time if you like.
If you’re gonna do that, I like to add a smidge of a light oil like avocado or a mild olive oil and a squeeze or two of fresh lemon just before serving to refresh it a little, since the sweet potato rice can will absorb liquid and become a little drier the longer it sits.
- 2 tbsp / 30 ml avocado oil
- 1 cup / 240 g diced onion (about ½ medium)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 lbs / 900 g white sweet potato (see notes)
- ½ cup / 120 ml chicken or vegetable broth
- ½ tsp fine sea salt
- ½ cup / 80 g mix of green olives & black olives
- ½ packed cup / 12 g fresh parsley
- ¼ cup / 40 g golden raisins, optional
- 1 tbsp / 10 g rinsed & patted dry salted capers
- 1 tbsp / 5 g fresh lemon zest (from 1 lemon)
- SOFTEN: In a very large skillet, heat the oil on low. Add the diced onion and garlic, stirring to coat, and cook, stirring occasionally until the onion is softened and translucent, about 8 minutes or so. While the onion and garlic are softening, prep the white sweet potatoes.
- GRATE: Peel the white sweet potatoes and chop them into large chunks that will fit through the feeder tube of your food processor. Fit the medium / coarse grating blade and grate the sweet potato. Tip the grated sweet potato into a bowl. Remove the grating attachment and fit the S blade into the food processor bowl. Working in batches of a few handfuls at a time, pulse the grated sweet potato until it resembles rice sized pieces. Don't over process or the pieces will be too small and fine.
- COOK: Add the riced sweet potato to the skillet. Stir and increase the heat until you just hear the sweet potato starting to sizzle, then add the broth and salt, stirring to combine. Cover the skillet and cook until the liquid has almost completely absorbed, about 5 minutes. Uncover and stir when the sweet potato still looks a little wet. Turn off and remove the skillet from the heat, stir and fluff the rice, then let it release steam while it cools a little and absorbs the broth.
- CHOP: Thinly slice the olives and mince the fresh parsley. Add the sliced olives, raisins, capers and lemon zest to the rice, stirring to combine. When the rice has cooled so that it is warm to the touch, add the parsley and stir well. Adjust seasoning to taste and serve warm. You can drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil or serve with lemon wedges on the side, if you like. If you're making this ahead or taking it to cookouts, I like to refresh the sweet potato rice pilaf with a little extra oil and a squeeze or two of fresh lemon juice just before serving.
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