In the pilaf method, grains are lightly toasted in oil or butter with vegetables and seasoning before they're simmered in stock or wine.
The first step is a quick rinse right before cooking to eliminate excess starch. Next, heat up the stock. If you don't have homemade stock or a good ready-made substitute, just use generous amounts of onions, carrots, and other aromatic vegetables in the first stage of cooking.
Choose a heavy pan with a tight-fitting lid. Heat 1-2 tablespoon oil over moderate heat. Use a neutral oil with a relatively high smoking point, such as canola, though you can use olive oil for extra flavor.
When the oil is hot, add some chopped aromatic vegetables; the minimum would be shallots or onions and a little garlic. Herbs and spices, such as bay leaf, thyme, sage, cumin, ginger, and fresh or dried chilies, are delicious additions. Fragrant herbs, such as basil, dill, or parsley, should be added at the end of the cooking so they don't wilt and lose their fresh flavor. The amount of aromatics you use is up to you.
When the vegetables have soften slightly, 5-10 min, add the grain, stirring to coat evenly with the oil. Let it cook for 3-4 min, a step known as a rissole. The grains will start to change color slightly and may make popping sounds. At this point, add the hot stock, all at once. Most grains absorb twice their volume in water, so add 2 cups of stock for every cup of grain. Stir briefly to make sure nothing is stuck to the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil and immediately reduce to a simmer and cover tightly.
To complete the cooking, let the pan simmer gently on the back burner or slip it into a 350 F oven. Cook until all the liquid is absorbed and the grains are soft. Most grain pilafs take 20-40 min to cook. If the liquid has been absorbed before the grain is done, simply add a little more hot stock or water and continue cooking.
When done, remove form the heat, fluff with a fork, and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper and fresh herbs. You can also add raisins or other dried fruit, toasted nuts, chopped scallions, sauteed mushrooms, or cooked green peas. Let the pilaf sit covered for 5 min to absorb the last-minute seasonings and to fluff up nicely.