Pomegranate Molasses Cherry Rice (Albaloo Polo with a Twist)

Shirine Daghmouri, Food & Culture Editor

When I lived in Montreal, I had an obsession with Persian cuisine and would order an array of dishes at the Iranian restaurant near our house (even though I was 3 years old). My favorite dishes were the rice dishes, including sour cherry rice, mostly because of its vibrant pink color. Sour cherry rice (or albaloo polo) remains my favorite side dish to accompany kebabs, stews, and other grilled meats.
Traditionally, albaloo polo is made with sour morello cherries to give the dish its notorious sour taste. However, sour cherries are often out of season and can only be found at specialty Middle Eastern stores. With this recipe, I wanted to preserve the sour aspect of this dish, while making the recipe accessible for people to create, using a staple seasoning in Middle Eastern and Persian cuisine—pomegranate molasses—which mimics the sour-sweet taste of sour morello cherries.

1 cup of cherries (fresh or frozen)
1 tbs of white sugar
2 tbs of pomegranate molasses
2 cups of long grain basmati rice
3 tbs of butter
For the topping (optional):
4 tbs of butter
2 tbs of shelled pistachios
2 tbs of slivered almonds
2 tbs of rinsed barberries (or raisins)

Once you have pitted your fresh (or frozen) cherries, combine in a bowl with sugar and pomegranate molasses, and let sit for a few minutes.
Caramelize the cherries:
Once marinated, heat the cherry mixture in a saucepan with 2 tablespoons of water over medium-low heat for around 10 minutes, or until the mixture creates a glaze. Set aside for later.
Parboil the rice:
In the meantime, rinse two cups of long-grain Basmati rice and place in a pot with cold water with a generous handful of sea salt.
Heat the pot on medium-high heat. Once the water is boiling, or after 7 minutes, drain the rice in a colander and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.
The purpose of boiling the rice and then draining it is to achieve a par-boiled or al-dente texture to the rice. If you are unsure, the goal is to be able to break the piece of rice in half without mushing it.
Layer & Cook the Rice with the Cherries:
In a medium-sized pot add 3 tablespoons of butter.
Once the butter is melted, begin layering the rice first and then the cherry glaze (make sure to include the liquid). Do not pat the rice layers down.
Poke a few holes through the rice with the back of a spoon to allow for even-cooking.
Place a cloth/kitchen towel over the pot and a lid, and cook for 40 minutes on low heat. The kitchen towel it absorbs moisture and makes the rice fluffier.
Pistachio, Almond, Barberry mixture (this step is optional, but recommended)
In a small pan at medium-high heat, add butter and let it melt. Then, add your pistachios, slivered almonds, and barberries (You can add any other dried fruits).
Cook until the almonds and pistachios are golden brown. Place the mixture over the rice when plating, along with some leftover cherry glaze.

Enjoy! I would recommend serving the rice as a side with beef or lamb kebabs or keftas, Shirazi salad, and Persian cucumber yogurt (Maast-o Khiar)!

This piece also appears in our June 2022 print edition.