April 28, 2010

Wonderful Wednesday Recipe: Feta Cheese and Mixed Spring Veggie Pilaff

Every season has its enduring qualities and charms, those things that make you wish, in certain ways, that it would linger on indefinitely so that you could continue to enjoy your favourite perks of that time of year. For me, one of my absolute most beloved elements of spring is the return of fresh, young produce at the grocery stores and outdoor markets alike.

Few things in the culinary realm can compare to the sweet, beautiful taste of new spring vegetables and this recipe – one I’ve been whipping up each April and May for at least five years now – positively teams with some of the loveliest vegetables this gentle season has to offer.

{Asparagus can be a tricky vegetable to make looking appealing when illustrated, but I think this charming vintage crate label does a great job of making it appear fresh and very inviting – just as it is in today’s rice pilaff recipe. Vintage illustration via Box of Apples.}

One of the beauties of this dish – as is often the case with pilaffs – is that you have quite a bit of creative freedom with what goes into it. You could, for example, swap out the basmati rice for brown, the asparagus for leaves from young artichokes, and the feta cheese with any variety of chèvre that you’d like.

While highly flavourful, this lovely rice pilaff is not the sort of dish that steals the show. It compliments a slew of foods such as chicken, lamb, baked fish, grilled shrimp, vegetable stews and even curries. Should you wish to make this recipe the centrepiece of your meal, I’d suggest following with a light fruit dessert (such as berry sorbet, poached pears in vanilla syrup, or simply a plate of your favourite spring/summer fruits and a bowl of whipped or clotted cream to dip slices into).

The season for early-in-the-year vegetables is all too short-lived, so while it’s still here, I plan to make this dish and others that burst with the verdant, flavourful goodness of the spring, as seasons – for better or worse – do not last forever.

Feta Cheese and Mixed Spring Veggie Pilaff


• 100 grams (3.5 oz) feta cheese (drained of any brine it may have come packaged in) cut into small cubes

• 300 grams (10 oz) basmati rice

• 700ml (1 ¼ pt) vegetable stock (preferably organic or homemade)
• 1 tbsp olive oil

• 1 medium sized white onion, peeled and finely chopped (or equal amounts of shallots or leeks)

• 100 grams (3.5 oz) white, green or purple thin-stalked asparagus, cleaned and cut into small (about 1 inch/2.5cm) pieces

• 1 yellow or green zucchini, cleaned and cut into thin disks (rounds)

• 100-300 grams (3.5-10 oz) of green peas (either fresh or frozen) or if you prefer you can use broad beans (or a mixture of both)

• 6 tbsp (or to taste) of fresh dill, finely chopped (or favourite herb of choice – tarragon and parsley are both wonderful here, too)

• Freshly ground salt and black pepper, to taste


Over medium heat place a deep, wide frying pan (skillet) or large heavy bottomed pot on your stove top (hob), to which you’ve added the olive oil. Let the oil heat up for a minute and then add in the chopped white onion; cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the onion has softened and turned slightly golden (but not brown!).

Next add in the basmati rice and vegetable stock, stir the contents of the pot, and increase the heat to medium-high. Allow the pot to come to gentle boil, then reduce the heat to medium low, cover and cook for 10-12 minutes (or until the rice has just cooked through).

Once the rice is cooked (sample a few grains to ensure it’s cooked to your desired consistency), add in all of the vegetables, stir the mixture well and continue cooking for 3-6 minutes, or until the asparagus and peas (or broad beans) are nicely tender, but not limp (if it’s looking like your pilaff is getting too dry before the veggies have cooked through, stir in a little more vegetable stock or some warm water).

After the vegetables have cooked, remove the pot from the stove top and set it aside (covered). If there is any remaining liquid, the rice should absorb it at this stage.

After five minutes, lift the lid and stir in the chopped fresh dill (or herb of choice) and the feta cheese cubes. Season to taste with salt and pepper (note that the feta will have its own natural saltiness, so you may find that you’d do not need to add any additional salt).

Bring to the table while warm, with extra chopped dill to sprinkle on individual servings, if desired – or you could top this delicious rice pilaff as I often do, with paper thin slices of tiny new spring radishes.

Serves four people as a side dish or two as a main course (this recipe can easily be multiplied if you’d like to serve more)

Bon appétit!


  1. Ah, my weakness, anything with rice, and this rice pilaf sounds divine! I love the spring veggie mix. Must must try this recipe. Thank you for sharing dahhling ;) Wishing you a wonderful hopefully warmer day for you :)

  2. Hi sweetie, sounds yummy, I adore asparagus! Vintage inspired hair accessory giveaway, worth $45.00 by spell bound if your interested! Sharon xx

  3. I love feta on pretty much everything!

    I gave you an award..


  4. Sounds lovely Jessica, minus the fetta ;)
    I looove dill, have you tried adding it to salad, its amazing!


  5. What a wonderful and refreshing spring veggie mix Jessica. I love both feta and asparagus, but I'm not so fond of zucchini -do you think the recipe will work without?
    -xo Jennifer

  6. Sounds so yummy! And feta cheese is so perfect for the warm season, with olives and tomatoes...yum!