Lemony Asparagus Artichoke Pilaf

As soon as asparagus shows up in the markets we all know that spring has definitively arrived. That moment emerged a number of weeks ago in San Francisco and I have been itching to make something with it ever since. I knew I wanted to do a pilaf with rice and lemon juice, and then the red pepper caught my eye at the store so I added that to my cart. I already had scallions in my fridge from another recent meal and knew they would make a great addition. So I thought I was all ready to make the dish when it struck me that I needed to add artichoke hearts. So back to the store I went.

Did you know that asparagus has magical powers. Oh, yes, it does! It can actually change the aroma of your urine—what other food do you know can do that? Moreover, not everyone has the ability to smell this transformation. Apparently, some people lack the gene to smell “asparagus pee,” while the rest of us (me included) can. For a long time I thought I was one of those people who lacked this gene; however, I later realized that was just because I never used to eat asparagus.

What’s interesting is that while only some people can detect asparagus-pee, I’m pretty sure I have yet to meet one of those people who can’t. Granted, my sample size is fairly small because I don’t talk about asparagus-pee with everyone I meet, but I’d say I know at least 20 people who have confirmed they have it and not a single person who doesn’t. So now I wonder what the ratio of asparagus-pee detectors to non-detectors there are in the world? How about you? Care to divulge whether you’re a detector or a non-detector? Or are you too shy or, as a European would say, prude?

Lemony Asparagus Artichoke Pilaf


  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced small
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 14 (or so) asparagus spears, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces. Also, if your spears are very large and you have the time to peel them with a potato peeler, go for it. It makes them so tender!
  • 1 can artichoke hearts, chopped small
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups white rice
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • salt and pepper
  • basil chiffonade (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups edamame (optional, see note)

Cook Rice: I buy my rice in bulk and first like to rinse it in a sieve before placing it in the saucepan so after you’ve rinsed your rice, place it in a medium saucepan with the water over high heat. Put a lid on it and let it come to a boil. Once it’s boiling, turn down the heat and let it simmer, covered until all of the water has been absorbed about 15-20 minutes.

Saute Veggies: Meanwhile heat the olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium heat. When the oil is warmed add the onions and let them cook for about 7 minutes then add the garlic, asparagus, and artichoke and saute for another 2 to 3 minutes. Add the red pepper and saute for another 2 minutes. I prefer my veggies to be just barely cooked so that they still have some crunch in them. Mushy veggies in a rice pilaf = disgusting.

Toss: After the rice and veggies are cooked, you want to toss them together in a very large bowl. I poured in a little rice and then added some of the veggies, tossed them, poured a little more of each and tossed again and continued to do this until all rice and veggies were used and distributed evenly. I then added the scallions, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Lastly, I chopped up some fresh basil chiffonade and used that as a garnish, which went very well with the rest of the flavors in the dish, but you can totally leave it out if you don’t have any on hand.

**Note: If you want to turn this into a main dish for lunch or dinner, I suggest adding edamame to it. Just microwave or boil the edamame until heated through and then toss it in with the rest of the veggies and rice. You could even add it along with the asparagus and artichokes as you’re sautéing the veggies.

3 Responses to Lemony Asparagus Artichoke Pilaf

  1. Pingback: Delightful and delicious « Life in the Bogs

  2. It looks so delicious!! I have to try this recipie.

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