A baked onion and rice casserole for Passover and beyond

In 2015, the Rabbinical Assembly, an international organization of conservative Jewish rabbis, lifted the long-standing ban on eating kitniyot (or legumes) during Passover. For many Ashkenazi Jews, this meant the rabbinic green light to serve rice, lentils, chickpeas, corn, beans, and spices like mustard and cardamom at the Seder table — the first significant menu change in about 800 years.

For Sephardic Jews, however, things went on as usual. Since they never banned these ingredients, they could always include dishes like hummus, spiced lentils, braised broad beans, and rice-stuffed vegetables on their Passover menus. Now Ashkenazi families can also consider hosting some of them.

An excellent option comes from Israeli chef Shimi Aaron. A former jeweler and chef at EllaMia Bakery and Cafe, Mr. Aaron is widely known for his sumptuous, gold-dusted babkas, which he wouldn’t serve at Passover. But his dish of candied onions loaded with rice, dill and pine nuts is just as stunning and would make a lively addition to any Passover table embracing Kitniyot.

Mr. Aaron enjoys using complex flavor combinations to transform simple ingredients into something exquisite and unexpected. Roasting onions in a bath of pomegranate juice with honey, dill, and olive oil makes them glitter like gems, then melt in your mouth. Short grain rice, cooked in the same casserole dish, turns out tender, plump and pleasantly gooey, infused with tangy sweetness and a blend of spices.

“People are skeptical that it’s just rice and onions, but that’s misleading,” Mr Aaron said. “I love it when food seems simple, but then surprises you with the taste.”

In his original recipe, Mr. Aaron boiled the whole, peeled onions, separating the layers into petals, and then carefully assembling the onions around the pine nut sprinkled rice. This streamlined version keeps the flavors but simplifies the form. The rice is placed in the bottom of a casserole dish, then sliced ​​raw purple and yellow onions are shingled on top. It’s just as colorful and pretty, but a lot easier to put together, which is a boon for an otherwise work-intensive holiday meal.

When not preparing this dish for Passover, Mr. Aaron is happy to offer it as a meatless first course or light main course, or as an accompaniment to fried chicken or fish. However you serve it, it’s bound to be the showpiece on the table. And it tastes as good as it looks. A baked onion and rice casserole for Passover and beyond

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