Asparagus, besides being exquisitely delicious, also packs tons of healthy fiber, potassium, and folate, making it a heart star. And saffron, often called the most expensive of spices, but really not that expensive, adds a beautiful golden color and just that right touch of sophistication and provocative flavor to the biryani.
Asparagus and Saffron Biryani [Vegan]
- 1 1/2 cups basmati rice, soaked in cold water for half an hour, then drained
- 2 1/2 cups water
- 2 dry bay leaves
- 4 cloves
- 4 pods of green cardamom
- 2 1-inch sticks of cinnamon
- 2 generous pinches of saffron
- Salt to taste
- 1 pound asparagus, cut lengthwise into 1-inch pieces (cut on a bias, or diagonally, for a pretty look)
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp vegetable oil (olive or canola will do)
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp black cumin seeds (double the regular cumin if you cannot find these)
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 1 tsp grated ginger
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup vegetable stock (use water if you have to, but the stock tastes much better)
- Salt to taste
- Place the water in a saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Add all the spices, including saffron, and salt to taste. Bring the water to a boil, then add the drained rice.
- When the water begins to boil, slap on the lid, turn the heat to low, and let the rice steam for 15 minutes. Turn off heat.
- Heat the oil in a saucepan large enough to hold the sauce and the rice.
- Add the cumin and black cumin. When they sputter, add the onions and some salt. Saute until the onions start to soften, then add the garlic and ginger and red pepper flakes. Saute for another minute.
- Add the asparagus stalks and stir well. Add the lemon juice so the stalks remain bright green.
- Add the stock and when it starts to simmer, place a lid on the saucepan and let the asparagus cook for about 5-7 minutes on medium-low heat until it's cooked but still firm with a good bite to it. You don't want soggy asparagus in this dish.
- Add the cooked rice to the asparagus and stir everything together, very gently so as to not break the grains of rice. It is best to do this with a fork-- use a "fluffing" motion with the rice instead of a stirring motion.
- Serve hot.