This is a great vegetarian entree or could accompany a variety of proteins. It's spicy, sweet, and comforting for both the weekend and weeknights. When pomegranates are in season, I'll substitute them for the pine-nuts to add a different flavor. —Bayley Elenzweig
Before starting the rice, prepare the saffron. Grind to pulpy-powdery consistency using a mortar and pestle or the back of a spoon, as I often do, with a small amount of salt. Add 1/4 cup of hot water. Allow this to steep for 10 minutes or more.
In a medium pot over medium heat, add one tablespoon of Olive Oil. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Next, add 2 cloves of minced garlic and cook only until fragrant. Mix in the rice and pour the entirety of the steeped saffron and water over the mixture. Next, add two cups of vegetable broth, and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and let cook, covered, until the rice is cooked and the liquid has been absorbed.
Now add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the small pot or saute pan. Add the last 2 cloves of minced garlic over medium-low heat. After they start to become fragrant, stir in the chopped dates and olives. Add the 1/2 cup broth, honey, and red wine vinegar. Add and additional 1/4 cup of water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and then lower to a medium-low heat to reduce, about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.
Once the stewed dates mixture has reduced to a thicker consistency, add the tomatoes, thyme, juice, paprika, and red pepper flakes. Continue to cook for another 5-10 minutes on low heat. Salt to taste and add more pepper if desired.
Stir crumbled feta into the cooked rice. Be careful to just lift rice up and over the feta, almost just spooning it over it. Don't over-stir, or the rice will become mush.
Serve rice with stewed dates served on top, and sprinkle with the toasted pine-nuts.