Coconut and Zucchini Rice with Walnuts and Saffron

I just got Ottolenghi’s Plenty Morebook. Though late to the game, I am going to rave about it, because it is that good. “Plenty More” is even more delicious than “Plenty”. Each spread is luscious; an explosion of vibrant colors and complex textures. You can almost smell the aromatics off the pages begging to be cooked, eaten, and shared. If “Crushed Puy Lentils with Tahini and Cumin”, “Rice Salad with Nuts and Sour Cherries”, or “Grilled Lettuce with Farro and Lemon” don’t strike your fancy, we should never be friends.

Some of Ottolenghi’s recipes are a bit difficult to make. The problem lies in the ingredient list, not the techniques. I don’t have rose water in my pantry, nor do I have Pernod. I don’t think you should either.

But we both want to make Ottolenghi worthy dishes; I am here to provide an easy to make, affordable recipe, made with accessible ingredients that tastes as good as any of Ottolenghi’s.

Through the use of accessible spices, affordable dried fruits, whole grains, and in-season vegetables, this recipe is able to transform basic ingredients into an unforgettable, exotic dish. Rice is cooked until tender in a sweet, coconut broth with dried berries. I like goji berries because they hue the rice a nice pink color. If you do not have goji berries on hand, feel free to use raisins, or even dates. As the rice cooks, zucchini is steamed in the same pot. Once ready the rice and zucchini and sprinkled with toasted walnuts, saffron, and cilantro. Served piping hot and oozing with flavor, this dish is decadent, rich, and full-bodied. The contrast of the soft, grassy zucchini, against the tender, earthy brown rice is just perfect. Just like a good risotto, everything melts in your mouth decadently.

Creamy, rich, and exotic, this is a one of a kind recipe you have to make.

Coconut and Zucchini Rice with Walnuts and Saffron

Serves 4

Cook time 50 minutes

  • ½ tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1 cup whole grain brown rice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 pinch salt
  • ¼ cup dried goji berries, raisins, or dates
  • 2 small zucchini or summer squash, about 2 cups sliced
  • ¼ cup walnuts
  • 1 pinch saffron, about 5-6 threads
  • small handful fresh cilantro
  • finishing salt and olive oil for plating

Place a saucepan over medium heat. Add coconut oil and rice. Stir for a couple minutes until rice is evenly coated in oil. Add water, coconut milk, salt, and goji berries. Stir once. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to medium low and cook until most of the liquid has been absorbed.

As the rice cooks, slice zucchini into half-inch rounds, then cut each round into 4 or 5 vertical sticks. Once most of the liquid is absorbed by the rice, place zucchini in the pot. Cover and cook for 35 minutes. The steam from the rice will cook the zucchini. Do not stir it into the rice!

After 35 minutes, taste the rice for doneness. Rice should be tender. Mix zucchini into rice. Add chopped walnuts and saffron. Stir again. Serve hot with fresh cilantro leaves, flaky sea salt, and a drizzle of olive oil.