Persian jeweled rice is a colorful, aromatic dish that will start your new year off right. Karen Schneider / For The Forecaster

This is a luscious meal to start out the new year or to save for one of those (many) cold Sunday afternoons when you want to break up the long winter by inviting a few friends over.

Karen Schneider cooks and writes in the village of Cundy’s Harbor. You can reach her at or 504-0545.

Just about everyone likes roast chicken, especially if it has crispy skin. The crunchy croutons flavored with herbs and pan juices are a bonus.

Do you ever read about food in a novel and think, “I have to make that”? It happens to me all the time. I first learned of Persian jeweled rice when I read “The Stationery Shop” by Marjan Kamali. If you want to celebrate the new year with something different, this classic Middle Eastern rice pilaf checks all the boxes. A departure from typical mashed potatoes and roasted root vegetables, this dish with its warming aroma and exotic flavor is just the ticket.

Although it has a long list of ingredients, this is an easy dish to prepare. I’ll admit that the traditional saffron is expensive, but you only need a bit. You can substitute just a pinch of turmeric if you’d rather. Other dried fruits such as cranberries, raisins, dates or goji berries are all delicious choices, too. Just don’t skip the pomegranate!

If you want to add even more color to your winter meal, bake up a batch of these seasonal fruity bars for dessert. Who says we have to stop eating cookies just because Christmas is over?

Roast chicken on bread


1 day-old baguette, torn into pieces

1 (5-pound) roasting chicken

2 tablespoons butter, softened

10 sprigs fresh thyme

5 garlic cloves, smashed

Coarse salt and fresh ground pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place baguette pieces in a large roasting pan. Place chicken on top of bread. Cross and tie drumsticks with kitchen twine then brush chicken with butter and place 2 thyme sprigs underneath the skin of each chicken breast. Season with salt and pepper.

Place garlic and 6 more thyme sprigs in pan. Roast until the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165 degrees, about 1 hour. Let stand for 10 minutes before carving. Serve bread alongside chicken.

Yield: 6 servings

Persian jeweled rice

1/2 teaspoon saffron threads

2 1/2 cups hot water


3 tablespoons butter or coconut oil

1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds

1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon cardamom

1/4 teaspoon allspice


1 medium onion, diced

1 1/2 cups basmati rice

2 bay leaves

Zest of 1 large lemon

Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

1/4 cup dried tart cherries


1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped

1/4 cup dried figs, chopped

1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted

1/4 cup pistachios, toasted

Seeds of 1 pomegranate

Stir saffron threads into hot water and set aside. Melt butter or coconut oil in a large skillet then sauté fennel and cumin seeds until they are fragrant, just a minute or two. Add cinnamon, cardamom and allspice and stir to combine. Add onion and sauté over low heat until softened, about 10 minutes.


Add rice and sauté for 2 minutes with spices and onion. Pour in the saffron-infused water and add bay leaves and lemon rind. Stir to combine, season with salt and fresh ground black pepper.

Stir in dried fruit then cover the skillet with a tight-fitting lid. Cook on low-medium heat for about 12 minutes. If rice isn’t tender, cook a few minutes more, adding additional water if needed. Turn off the heat and let the rice rest with the cover on, for another 10 minutes.

Fluff rice with a fork and remove bay leaves. Spoon into a serving dish and sprinkle nuts and pomegranate seeds over the top.

Yield: 6 servings

Cranberry-nut bars

1 1/4 cups flour


2 cups sugar, divided

1/2 cup cold butter

1 cup hazelnuts, pecans or macadamia nuts, chopped and divided

2 eggs, beaten

2 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon orange zest


1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup cranberries, finely chopped

1/2 cup shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, stir together flour and 3/4 cup sugar. Using a pastry blender or fork, cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in 1/2 cup nuts. Press mixture into an ungreased 9×13-inch baking pan. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until crust is light brown on the edges.

Meanwhile, beat together 1 1/4 cups sugar, eggs, milk, orange zest and vanilla in a bowl. Pour over hot crust and sprinkle with cranberries, 1/2 cup nuts and coconut.

Return pan to oven and bake 30 minutes. Cool slightly in pan on a wire rack. While still warm, cut into 24 squares then cut each square diagonally. Cool completely in pan.

Yield: 48 triangles

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