Pilaf with lentils, pine nuts and apricots
A richly-flavored Middle Eastern rice and lentil pilaf studded with pine nuts and chopped dried apricots.

1/3 cup raw pine nuts

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion—finely diced
1 carrot—diced
1 green pepper—deseeded and diced
2 cloves garlic—finely chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup basmati rice
¾ cup canned brown lentils—rinsed and drained
1/3 cup dried apricots—chopped
1½ cups vegetable or chicken stock
1½ teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro (fresh coriander)

1 tablespoon lemon juice

TOAST the pine nuts in a large saucepan over medium heat until lightly browned, then remove from the pan and set aside. HEAT 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the same pan over medium heat and cook the onion for 3 minutes. ADD the carrot and green pepper and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. ADD the garlic, cumin, coriander and cinnamon and cook, stirring, for a minute. ADD the rice and stir to coat the grains with oil and spices. ADD the lentils, apricots, stock and salt and bring to the boil. COVER with a lid, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 20 minutes without lifting the lid. FLUFF the rice with a fork and gently stir through the toasted pine nuts, cilantro, lemon juice, and reserved tablespoon of olive oil.

Variations: The lentils can be replaced with chickpeas or shelled fava beans. You can use pistachios, sliced almonds, walnuts, or hazelnuts in place of the pine nuts (or combined with them). Instead of using cilantro as the fresh herb, you can use fresh flat-leaf parsley or mint. And dates, figs, or raisins can replace the dried apricots.