"Top Chef" host Padma Lakshmi is all about bringing the most flavor out of a dish by cooking with spices; she's even written a book n the subject, "The Encyclopedia of Spices and Herbs." Here, she shares an Indian-style rice pilaf recipe that's easy to follow but has complex flavor thanks to all the spices used.
In a medium sauté pan, warm the star anise, cardamom pods and cloves over medium heat, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the butter and swirl around the pan until melted. Turn the heat down to low, add the shallots, ginger, red chilies, and a pinch of salt, and cook 5 to 7 minutes, until the shallots are glassy and start to caramelize.
Add cooked rice to sauté pan, and stir to combine. Taste and adjust salt as needed, and serve.