Spice and rice enliven a quickly-made supper Entertaining: Cumin and sweet peppers in three colors delight guests at late, light meal.

July 19, 1998|By Betty Rosbottom | Betty Rosbottom,LOS ANGELES TIMES SYNDICATE

More than any other time of the year, in the summer months I entertain spontaneously. I think nothing of telephoning friends in the afternoon to invite them for a last-minute supper that evening. This past week, for example, when neighbors called in the morning to ask if we would like to see a new film one night, I impulsively asked them to have a light supper at our house afterward.

Obviously, the menu for this as well as my other hastily conceived meals has to be simple. I offered bowls of black and green olives along with creamy goat cheese sprinkled with herbs as post-cinema appetizers.

Citrus-marinated grilled chicken, a mixed-greens salad, and cumin rice with sweet peppers made up the main course. For dessert, I made a quick lemon-strawberry tart by using store-bought lemon curd for the filling and topping that with sliced berries.

Our guests ate everything with abandon, but their favorite dish was the rice pilaf that accompanied the chicken. They even asked for the recipe and were surprised to learn how easy it was to prepare. I sauteed chopped onions along with diced red, yellow and orange peppers, then added rice (a convenient mixed blend of white, brown and wild varieties), a generous seasoning of cumin and some chicken stock. The aromatic spice permeated the rice assertively, while the multihued peppers added a splash of color.

After the rice simmers in stock about 25 minutes, it can be held, covered, at room temperature for 20 minutes, giving the cook time to finish other dishes. The pilaf would make a fine accompaniment to grilled lamb chops, shrimp or salmon fillets as well as to chicken.

Cumin-Scented Rice With Sweet Peppers

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup finely diced red pepper (1 medium pepper, seeds and membranes removed and discarded)

1 cup finely diced yellow pepper (1 medium pepper, seeds and membranes removed and discarded)

1 cup finely diced orange pepper (1 medium pepper, seeds and membranes removed and discarded)

1 cup chopped onions

2 1/2 cups rice, preferably blend of white, brown and wild rice (see note)

2 tablespoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon salt, plus more if needed

4 1/2 cups chicken stock

Melt butter in large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add peppers and onions and saute, stirring constantly, 2 minutes.

Add rice, cumin and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir to mix well and cook 1 minute more. Add stock and bring to simmer. Lower heat and cook, covered, at gentle simmer 20 to 25 minutes until all liquid has been absorbed. Taste and add additional salt if desired. To serve, mound rice in shallow serving bowl. Serve hot.

Note: There are packaged rice blends, which include white, brown and wild rice grains. These products are prepared so that the rices, which individually would require different cooking times, can be cooked together. I have used Uncle Ben's Trio Rice successfully in this recipe.

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