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Chef Biju Thomas remembers his mother making biriyani rice when he was growing up in south India. In his house, biriyani was made up of whatever ingredients were available and in-season.
“I really got this from my mom,” Thomas says. “It’s how she got the kids to eat, because there’s a little bit of sweetness in the rice because of the raisins. And I don’t mean those crappy boxes of raisins you brought to lunch as a kid; sautéing raisins in coconut oil transforms them into something buttery and significantly more delicious.”
Thomas, who lives in Boulder, Colorado, dubs his biriyani salad recipe more “Indian meets frontier,” as he’s put his own spin on it. For example, he chooses to add grilled peaches on top for an extra sweet pop with some unique texture. He also adds okra, an ingredient he takes very seriously. “Typically the way we get okra in the Midwest you get it mushy or deep-fried,” Thomas says. “The way to get a really stand-out okra is slice four or five pieces. Then, in a little coconut oil, sauté for three to four minutes over high heat until crisp.”
You can incorporate your own regional fruit into the dish. When Thomas is making the recipe in Colorado, for example, he uses dried cherries and apricots. Experiment with your favorite flavors and textures.
Biriyani-Style Rice Salad with Dried Apricots and Cashews
- Brown onions on medium heat in half the coconut oil with mustard seeds until the seeds pop.
- Add cashews, raisins, apricots, and chickpeas until fruit is plump and the nuts toasted.
- Add in one tablespoon curry powder and any additional ground spices that you like. Mix together with remaining coconut oil and gently fold in rice, adding salt as needed. Set aside.
- Lightly coat okra, peaches, squash, zucchini, carrots, kale, and lemons in coconut oil. Grill or roast until tender and slightly charred.
- Spread cooked rice mixture onto a large platter and loosely arrange grilled fruit and vegetables on top. Squeeze grilled lemon on top and sprinkle with coarse salt.
Additional Notes: You don’t have to use every vegetable in the ingredient list if you don’t want to. Base your selection on preference and how much food you are serving.