Saffron rice with winter vegetables
1 cup peeled butternut squash, chopped into 2″ (3-4 cm.) cubes
1 cup scrubbed, not peeled sweet potato chopped into 2″ (3-4 cm.) cubes
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves or 3 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried sage leaves or 3 large fresh leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4-1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 garlic cloves, not peeled
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
1/4 cup boiling water
1 cup Basmati or other long-grain rice
2 additional tablespoons olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 additional teaspoon salt
1 3/4 additional cups hot water
Put the saffron into a small glass bowl and add 1/4 cup boiling water. Stir, cover and set aside.
Pour 1/4 cup olive oil into a medium bowl. Add thyme, sage, 1/2 teaspoon salt and black pepper. Stir.
Add the chopped vegetables and mix gently to cover them with the herbed oil. Remove the vegetables to a baking sheet, reserving any extra oil in the bowl.
Stir the garlic cloves into this extra oil and set the bowl aside.
Bake the squash and sweet potatoes for 15 minutes.
At 15 minutes baking time, turn the vegetables over and add the garlic cloves. Bake everything another 15 minutes.
While the vegetables finish baking, rinse and drain the rice.
While the rice drains, gently fry the chopped onion in 2 tablespoons of olive oil until the onion wilts – 3-5 minutes.
Add the rice and salt, stirring gently until the rice glistens. Add the saffron water (don’t lose a single thread!) and the additional hot water. Stir and bring to a boil.
Lower the heat and cook, uncovered, over medium heat until holes appear on the surface of the rice and the water has evaporated. Now add half the roasted vegetables, stirring them in gently – and quickly, so as not to lose the steam. Turn the heat off.
Cover the pot with a clean kitchen towel and clamp its cover over it. Let the rice and vegetables sit and steam away for 20-30 minutes in a warm place.