Brown Basmati Rice Pilaf

(2009) I stopped eating white rice about a year ago. Since then I have focused on converting my favorite white rice dishes to brown. It’s happened before.

During the first wave of ‘rice conversion’, hippies, health food faddists, and macrobiotic devotees all signed up to discriminate against Uncle Ben’s, Minute Rice, and any rice that came close to their skin color.

Thinking it was an easy conversion; the beautiful beige grains arrived at the table mushy, chewy, and tasteless. Using an electric rice cooker helped but soon I was back to the white rice that has been a staple of my family for generations.

Even though I purchased only organically grown white rice, I longed for the flavor, missing fiber, and nutrition of the brown variety.

Replacing white flour with whole wheat created other problems. The two are not interchangeable. The new ‘whole grains’ also require special handling.

After a year of research and testing I have successfully made the switch from white to brown.

Depending on the recipe there are different techniques that deliver brown rice with a pleasing texture and a slightly nutty flavor.

Brown Basmati Rice Pilaf has been a staple in my home and on my catering menu for years. It is the ‘new’ Ruza that follows the unique method used by my ancient Assyrian ancestors for preparing pilaf.

Brown Basmati Rice Pilaf leftovers can be used in making any ‘fried rice’ or ‘Biryani’ (Indian Fried Rice). It can also be used in the filling of stuffed vegetables and leaves (dolmas) or in ‘burritos’.

Brown Basmati Rice Pilaf

Serves 8

Cook’s notes: Assyrians have a unique method of cooking rice. It involves several steps; rinsing, parboiling, coating the grains with butter or oil, baking, fluffing, and letting the excess steam escape. Putting white rice through this rigorous ritual is tricky but matching up this ancient technique with the ancient grains of my ancestors produces a delicious whole grain pilaf with more flavor, better texture, and tender individual grains. This rice is always served with a seasonal stew.

2 cups Brown Basmati Rice, preferably organically grown.

 Rinse the rice in a strainer under running cold water until the water runs clear. Drain. Add the rice to the brine (recipe below) and set aside for at least 30 minutes or as long as overnight. Drain and rinse well.


2 quarts (8 cups) Water

2 tablespoons Kosher Salt


2 tablespoons Olive Oil or Butter, or a combination of both

1 small Onion, peeled and finely minced

¼ cup Boiling Water, or Stock (Chicken or Vegetable)

Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add the brined rice. Cook until the rice is almost tender, about 20 minutes. Stir occasionally. Check the rice several times to make sure it doesn’t overcook; it still needs to be firm when bitten. Drain the rice, rinse well, and let drain again.

Preheat the oven to 350-degrees.

Heat the oil over medium heat in an ovenproof pan with a tight fitting lid. Add the onions, lightly salt, and cook until the onions are tender. Do not brown the onions.

Add the drained rice and hot water to the onions. Stir to combine the ingredients. Cover the pan and place it in the preheated oven. Bake until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender, about 20-25 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven. Remove the cover, lightly fluff the rice with a large fork, lay a cotton kitchen towel over the pan, replace the cover, and allow the rice to steam for at least 15 minutes or until it reaches serving temperature.