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Spring Rice Pilaf with Tzatziki Sauce

Courtesy Daniel Boulud


Vegetable Pilaf
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1 cup diced or sliced celery
  • 1 cup baby carrots, sliced in 1/4-inch rounds
  • 5 large button mushrooms, cut into diced or cut small wedges
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for coating pan
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon saffron
  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • cups vegetable stock
  • 8 stalks jumbo asparagus, tips cut into 2-inch spears, remainder cut in 1/4-inch slices
  • 1 cup English peas, shelled
  • 1 bunch watercress, leaves only (1 cup picked)
Tzatziki Sauce
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 Persian cucumber-seeded, grated, lightly salted and drained
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped mint
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, peeled, germ removed, and finely chopped
  • 1/2 lemon, zested
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Chef notes

I love this dish because it is light, bright and perfect to serve for any spring celebration. The zesty tzatziki sauce adds creaminess and extra freshness to rice and vegetables.

About Boulud's virtual cooking classes:

The Michelin-starred chef turned his famed NYC restaurant into a COVID-safe South of France oasis, and now he’s connecting with foodies by hosting a series of virtual cooking classes.


A portion of sales from the classes will be donated to Citymeals on Wheels, where Boulud serves as the Board’s Co-President. Citymeals on Wheels, also called Citymeals, is a Meals on Wheels-type nonprofit organization in New York City that raises private funds to provide prepared meals and social support to homebound elderly residents of New York City.

Purchase tickets, view the schedule and learn more here.


For the vegetable pilaf:

Generously coat a cast-iron braiser or Dutch oven in olive oil, then add onion, celery, carrot, mushrooms and bay leaves. Season with salt, pepper and saffron. Cook over low heat until the onions are translucent. Add the rice, season again, toss with a spoon for another 1-2 minutes and pour the stock over. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cover tightly. Cook for 8 minutes.

In a small bowl, toss the asparagus and peas with 2 tablespoons olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the asparagus spears on top of the rice in a circular shape and sprinkle the peas and asparagus slices in an even layer. Cover and continue to cook another 7 minutes.

For the tzatziki sauce:

Combine the yogurt in a bowl with the cucumber, mint, chopped garlic and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

To serve:

When the rice is done, place a handful of watercress in the center and close the lid again. Let rest for 5 minutes before fluffing with a fork. Serve the tzatziki sauce on the side.