Last week the Food Photography group of the San Francisco Professional Food Society had a meeting and we all brought foods to share. I always enjoy spending time with other food lovers, especially when we have potlucks. There are several vegetarians in the group, so I thought I would try a new recipe ~ they were my guinea pigs!
Most of the people in the group are also recipe developers, so it is safe to share something we are trying out. We know that changes are probably already planned, adjustments may be needed, and constructive criticism is always welcome.
Because I was running late, I made the fatal error of not completely cooling the cooked rice before combining it with the vegetables and dressing. As a result, my perfectly al dente vegetables continued to cook and got too soft. Don’t make the same mistake! You can make the rice a day ahead or use leftover cooked rice from another meal or Chinese take out!
Before I had to go gluten-free I ate a lot of whole grain salads. I love farro, bulgur, barley and other wheat-based grains. The closest I can get to those these days is brown rice and I am grateful that I love it too! It has a nice nuttiness that comes close to the other grains.
While my recipe calls for lightly sautéing the vegetables before combining them with the rice and dressing, you can certainly use raw vegetables instead. In hindsight, I probably could have gotten away with putting them in raw and the residual heat from the rice would have softened them perfectly.
The touch of sugar in the dressing adds a nice balance to the richness of the rice. I was pleasantly surprised. When I first saw it listed in another recipe, I wondered if it would be too sweet, more like a macaroni salad dressing, but it was just right.
You can use any combination of vegetables that you have on hand and that you like. Just think about creating a beautiful rainbow of colors and you know you will have a healthy and delicious meal! While I always think of serving this kind of salad in the spring and summer when the farmers’ markets are overflowing with produce, you can make it all year long by using whatever is in season and supplementing with high quality, organic frozen vegetables when needed.
The hostess of our event made some of the most delicious chicken I’ve ever had! She and her husband slow smoked chicken, basting it with a simple combination of sage, rosemary and thyme in melted butter. Oh My Goodness. I’m still dreaming about it and will have to try to replicate it soon!!
We had fun learning from the delightful and extremely talented Rory Earnshaw and his food stylist, Jackie Slade. He had brought a selection of his photos demonstrating the power of the three major angles, straight on, 3/4 and top-down or bird’s eye. As we went through the photos, everyone had different questions and perspectives on the images. It was amazing to hear how differently we responded to the same image. It was enlightening, educational, and ultimately a whole lot of fun!
I hope you enjoy this salad. You can make it a day or two in advance, serve it as a side dish to roasted or grilled proteins, or serve it as a vegetarian/vegan main course. If you serve it as a side dish one night, you can chop or shred some of the leftover meat or poultry and add it to the salad the next day.
Have a fabulous day!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
Letting the rice cool completely before assembling is the key to a perfect rice salad. If you try to dress it when it is still warm, you may wind up with a soggy salad.
- 2 cups water, chicken or vegetable stock
- 1/4 cup white wine or dry vermouth
- 2 tsp kosher salt, divided
- 1 cup raw brown rice
- 3 tbsp Champagne or rice wine vinegar
- 2 tsp sugar
- Pinch kosher salt
- 1 tbsp good olive oil
- 1/2 tsp fresh lemon zest
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 1 bell pepper, stem & seeds removed, finely diced
- 1 to 2 poblano or sweet Italian peppers, stemmed, seeded & finely chopped
- 1 to 2 carrots, finely diced
- 2 to 3 stalks celery, finely diced
- 1/2 cup zucchini cubes
- 2 large shallots, minced
- 1 clove garlic, finely minced
- 1 cup mozzarella cubes or mini bocconcini quartered
- 1 lb ripe tomatoes, large-diced
- 1 cup packed basil leaves, about 1 large bunch, chopped
- Prepare the Rice: Bring water or stock and wine to a boil, stir in the rice and 1 tsp of the salt. Return to a boil, cover, lower the heat and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, until the rice is tender and all the liquid is absorbed. NOTE: Depending on the type of rice you are using, the ratios and cooking times will vary. Follow the package directions for specifics.
- Transfer the cooked rice to a baking sheet with sides and spread it out to cool. Toss occasionally with two forks as it cools, to fluff it up and break up any clumps. This helps keep the rice light and fluffy. Cool to room temperature.
- Combine the Dressing: Place the vinegar, sugar and remaining 1 tsp (2 tsp) of salt in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Add the olive oil and pepper. Place the lid on the jar, tighten it, and shake vigorously until emulsified. Set aside; shake again before adding to the rice.
- Prepare the Vegetables. While the rice is cooking, in a 10-inch skillet heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the bell peppers, poblano peppers, carrots, and celery. Cook, stirring often, for about 3 minutes or until starting to soften. Add the zucchini, shallots, and garlic. Continue cooking for another 2 to 3 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Toss occasionally to let all the vegetables cool evenly.
- Assemble Salad: When cool, transfer the rice to a large bowl and add sauteed vegetables, mozzarella, tomatoes and basil. Toss to combine. Pour half of dressing over the top and toss to blend. Taste and adjust the seasonings, adding more dressing if desired. Any leftover dressing can be kept in the refrigerator.
- Serve at room temperature. Store, covered, in the refrigerator up to a couple of days.
- For Vegan: Use water or vegetable stock to cook the rice and leave out the cheese.
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