Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Salad of the Month: Colorful Rice Salad

Since the weather has finally warmed up, I thought a salad would be more appropriate for April's Recipe of the Month than a soup. At first, I was thinking of trying a recipe I found in Redbook for a grilled avocado with shrimp salad, but I eventually rejected it because it didn't really seem like my idea of a salad. Yes, it had a vegetable in it, if you consider the avocado a vegetable rather than a fruit, but it was also 350 calories for one serving: half an avocado topped with about two ounces of shrimp. That didn't look like it would do much for my ultimate goal of eating healthier, less calorie-dense meals.

So instead, I turned for guidance to my culinary Bible, Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. There were a couple of salad recipes in there that I'd bookmarked to try later, and this seemed like a good time for it. The first one, Chick Pea Salad with Arugula, looked tasty, but it seemed like a pity to make it now with store-bought arugula when there's fresh arugula just starting to come up in the garden that should be ready to pick in a couple of weeks. So instead, I turned to a section called "The World of Rice Salads": one basic salad recipe with a whole series of variants that incorporate different flavors from international cuisine.

Since this was our first time making it, we decided to stick with the basic recipe, which is extraordinarily simple. You just toss cooked, cooled rice with a variety of chopped veggies—scallion, celery, carrot, and red or yellow bell pepper—and a simple red wine vinaigrette. Season it with salt and pepper and a sprinkling of parsley, and boom, it's done. We already had most of the ingredients for it on hand, although I did have to shell out $1.50 for one out-of-season yellow pepper. Our scallions in the garden aren't up yet, but we were able to harvest enough from the potted scallions we keep on the plant shelf in the guest room, and we got the parsley by cannibalizing the two extra seedlings we potted that didn't end up going into the garden. (They were getting too big for their starter tubes anyway, so we'd have had to repot them and give them away if we didn't eat them.)

The resulting mixture is nice and colorful; in fact, with the yellow pepper that we used, the mix of colors matches the rather flamboyant team colors of my Morris dance team. And for something so extremely simple, it's surprisingly flavorful, as well. Brian didn't add a single thing to the recipe—in fact, he didn't even use any pepper, just a little sprinkle of salt. So the only seasonings in it were the olive oil, salt, and vinegar in the dressing, which allowed the fresh flavors of the vegetables themselves to shine through.

Having enjoyed the basic recipe, we're now keen to try some of the variants, like Japanese style (with miso sauce, tofu, nori, and sesame seeds) and citrus (which leaves out the veggies and uses any sort of citrus juice in place of vinegar). But we'll definitely be making the basic recipe again, as well. I figure this dish would be an excellent choice for a potluck party, because (a) it doesn't need to be kept warm; (b) it's both vegan and gluten-free, so pretty much everyone can eat it; and (c) it's something that I myself can eat as much of as I like with virtually no guilt. And better still, if the potluck is hosted by the dance community, we can label the dish as Millstone River Mor-Rice Salad.
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