1½ cups basmati rice, soaked in cold water for half an hour, then drained
2½ cups water
2 dry bay leaves
4 pods of green cardamom
2 1-inch sticks of cinnamon
2 generous pinches of saffron
Salt to taste
For the sauce:
1 pound asparagus, cut lengthwise into 1-inch pieces (cut on a bias, or diagonally, for a pretty look). Trim the asparagus first by removing the hard ends. The easiest way to do this is to hold either end of the asparagus with your fingertips and bending it firmly. The stalk with automatically snap at the point where the hard end meets the tender one. You can save the tough parts to make vegetable stock.
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp vegetable oil (olive or canola will do)
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp black cumin seeds (double the regular cumin if you cannot find these)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tsp minced garlic (yes, I know it's garlic and we are talking Valentine's Day, but this much garlic will not foul your breath, especially when it's cooked, and do you know garlic is also an aphrodisiac?)
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp red pepper flakes
½ cup vegetable stock (use water if you have to, but the stock tastes much better)
Salt to taste
Make the rice:
Place the water in a saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Add all the spices, including saffron, and salt to taste. Bring the water to a boil, then add the drained rice.
When the water begins to boil, slap on the lid, turn the heat to low, and let the rice steam for 15 minutes. Turn off heat.
Make the sauce:
Heat the oil in a saucepan large enough to hold the sauce and the rice.
Add the cumin and black cumin. When they sputter, add the onions and some salt. Saute until the onions start to soften, then add the garlic and ginger and red pepper flakes. Saute for another minute.
Add the asparagus stalks and stir well. Add the lemon juice so the stalks remain bright green.
Add the stock and when it starts to simmer, place a lid on the saucepan and let the asparagus cook for about 5-7 minutes on medium-low heat until it's cooked but still firm with a good bite to it. You don't want soggy asparagus in this dish.
Add the cooked rice to the asparagus and stir everything together, very gently so as to not break the grains of rice. It is best to do this with a fork-- use a "fluffing" motion with the rice instead of a stirring motion.
Recipe by Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes at http://holycowvegan.net/asparagus-and-saffron-biryani-countdown/