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I am always searching for side dishes that can accompany main courses without overpowering them. This is a recipe that does just that. Rice and noodles combined with toasted almonds and red peppers is one of my favorite autumn side dishes. The flavors are simple so you can pair many entrees with this dish.

When shopping for the rice, look for the long grain variety. Its slender grains stay separate and fluffy after cooking — which works well for side dishes or as a bed for sauces — and long grain rice is fairly bland so that any flavorings added to it mingle nicely. There are other long grain types that could be used as an alternative to the American version (for example Basmati or Jasmine rice), but the Asian varieties are more aromatic and have a nutty flavor. I prefer good old American long grain rice for this recipe.

Simple egg noodles work best for this recipe because they cook up in the same amount of time as the rice, arriving at a point where they’re soft, but not mushy, while maintaining their distinctive flavors. Look for fine egg noodles for this recipe.

When I first began making rice, I would combine the liquid, butter and rice and simmer the mixture until it was just cooked. Through years of rice making, I have found that sauteing the rice in oil for a few minutes until the kernels barely turn light brown adds additional deep flavor. In this recipe we also saute the noodles to add extra texture and flavor.

Caramelized leeks and red peppers bring a taste of the fall season and the toasted almonds add a delightful crunch. People always ask me why I am so partial to leeks. The simple answer is they have a delicious taste effect when slowly sauteed and lightly caramelized.

Remember when working with leeks to cut off the dark green tops (you can freeze them for making soup later) and to slice the light green and white part just down to the root. Run them under water in the sink to remove excess dirt.

Then slice or chop them as desired.

Keep this recipe handy for those moments when you find yourself asking “What can I serve with this entree?” and wait for the complements.

Autumn Noodles and Rice

1/4 cup slivered almonds

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 1/4 cups long-grain white rice

1 1/4 cups fine egg noodles

3 cups chicken or vegetable broth

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 medium leek, finely chopped

1 medium diced yellow or red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch dice

2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toast almonds in oven for 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Reserve.

In a medium saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil on medium heat. Saute the rice and egg noodles for about 3 minutes or until evenly coated and very lightly browned. Add the broth, salt and pepper, and increase heat to medium-high heat. Stir with a fork. Lower heat, cover and simmer 15 to 18 minutes, or until cooked through and the liquid has evaporated.

Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, heat the butter and remaining oil over medium heat. Add the leeks and saute, stirring occasionally, about 5 to 7 minutes or until soft and lightly caramelized. Add peppers and continue sauteing for about 3 to 4 minutes or until cooked, but slightly crisp.

When rice and noodles are cooked, add vegetables, almonds and parsley. Toss with a fork, taste for seasoning and serve immediately. Serves 6.

Per serving: 303 calories; 12 g fat (3 g saturated fat; 36 percent calories from fat); 43 g carbohydrates; 2 g sugar; 16 mg cholesterol; 341 mg sodium; 6 g protein; 2 g fiber.

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