Thursday, June 13, 2013

Brown Rice Salad with Asparagus, Feta, and Lemon

I am not an animal! I am rice salad.
Have I really never posted a rice salad recipe before? I know I’ve done the dauntingly magically expanding spelt salad (Summery Whole-Grain Salad sounds better!) and the really really good Minted Cherry Tabouli, but I just googled my name and “rice salad” and got nothing. Well, technically I got to this old blog post, which did indeed mention rice salad, and did indeed fill me with nostalgia, but did not, in fact, offer an actual recipe. And that’s strange, because I make a lot of rice salads, including a kind of muddledly Asian one, with the scallion dressing from here, and loads of chopped radishes, slivered cabbage, baked tofu, and peanuts. That’s a good one. And then there are the many random ones, with odds and ends of veggies and cheeses, herbs, good vinaigrettes, and gratings of citrus zest, and me saying, “Is this good enough to take to a potluck?” And usually, yes, it’s fine.

Have a already lost you at "rice salad" and you're asleep now, dreaming of pork chops and skirt steak and the kind of Brazilian restaurant where a hundred meats come by on a stick and you just grab the ones you want along with a tantalizing dish of chimichurri? Sorry.
Remember the Vegetarian Times scandal? When it turned out that the vegan ribs looked so tasty and alluring because they'd photographed actual pork ribs? That was kind of funny. This really is real rice salad!
But this is a really, really good rice salad—a “company” rice salad, if you will. The recipes uses my current favorite rice-cooking method (boiling it like pasta, which, festively, removes more of the arsenic). And it also offers a bonus excellent pan-roasting asparagus method. Plus, the dish is so perfectly balanced with the trifecta of salad ingredients: something rich (feta), something crunchy (toasted almonds), and something bright-tasting (lemon zest). Also herbs. You could add mint here to good effect, and you could add something sweet, such as dried cherries or slivered sundried tomatoes. Every bite is creamy and crunchy, sweet and bursty, lemony, balanced, and delicious.

Brown Rice Salad with Asparagus, Feta, and Lemon
Serves 8-10

This is adapted from this month’s Cook’s Illustrated. I tinkered with this and that, increased the rice from 1 ½ cups to 2, added a cup of green peas for their bursty sweetness, used feta instead of fresh goat cheese, added more parsley, etc. Also, the chive blossom garnish perfectly picks up the specks of purple from the shallot, which is just kind of subtly magnificent. If subtle magnificence is possible.

2 cups brown rice (I like short grain, even though they recommend long, because it’s sweet and nutty)
4 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons lemon juice

4 tablespoons good olive oil (divided use)
1 large bunch of asparagus, trimmed (I like the sweet, fat ones)
More kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 shallot, minced
The grated zest of 1 lemon, plus its juice (around 2-3 tablespoons)
1 cup frozen little green peas, thawed in a sieve under hot water
1 cup crumbled feta (or another mild goat cheese, or freshly grated parmesan, if you prefer)
¾ cup slivered almonds, toasted (or sautéed in a pan with a teaspoon of oil)
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
Chive blossoms for garnish, if you have them!

Cook the rice: Bring a pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the rice and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the rice is just tender (around 25 minutes). Drain the rice well, then put it back in the pot, put a dish towel over the top of the pot, and replace the pot’s cover. Let the rice steam and cool for 10-15 minutes, then stir in the 2 teaspoons of lemon juice. (Cook's Illustrated has a, pardon, senselessly fussy step involving a rimmed baking sheet.)

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a wide pan over medium-high heat until it’s shimmering. Add half the asparagus with the tips pointed one way and half with the tips pointed the other. (This is the kind of Cook’s Illustrated detail that makes me smile—but if you picture trying to fit a lot of triangles together, it does make sense.) Cover the pan and cook until the asparagus are bright green and still crisp, which will take from 2 to 5 minutes depending on their size and/or freshness. Uncover them, increase the heat to high, season them with salt and pepper, and continue to cook until tender and browned, another 5 to 7 minutes, moving them around with tongs a little as they cook so that they brown evenly. Transfer them to a cutting board and leave them to cool, then cut them into 1-inch pieces.

In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, shallot, lemon zest and juice, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and ½ teaspoon of pepper. Add the rice and the asparagus, and stir to mix, then add the peas, parsley, almonds, and feta and stir again. Taste for salt and lemon, and add more if it needs it.

Let it stand at room temperature for up to an hour (really try not to have to refrigerate it, or it will lose a great deal of its loveliness) then garnish with chive blossoms (or not) and serve.

I meant to take a picture of the asparagus in the pan, but I forgot!

You can get your handy Ben to fry the almonds for you.

and make the dressing.


  1. That salad looks delicious, and has made its way on to the menu for tonight! Also, I followed the link and laughed out loud at "the audio version of water torture," which describes life in our house pretty accurately right now.

  2. This one, please, too? We're greedy rice salad animals.

    << including a kind of muddledly Asian one, with the scallion dressing from here, and loads of chopped radishes, slivered cabbage, baked tofu, and peanuts. >>

  3. Have you tried brown basmati rice? It really doesn't taste anything at all like white basmati rice (where do these names for rice come from anyway?), but it is my favorite brown rice. I highly recommend it! I was already planning to make pasta salad from left over whole wheat pasta (it's not delicious but I thought in a salad with lots of yummy stuff, maybe?) and now I can make rice salad with extra rice! Yay!


  4. This was absolutely delicious! Thanks!

  5. sweet!! i just scored the. absolute. last. asparagus today (from around here, anyway), and promptly scooped up five bunches. plus brown rice? feta? fried almonds??

    so there. i give it three days. nay, two.

  6. I chuckled at the image of "festively" removing arsenic. It was subtly magnificent.

  7. Your blog is really amazing and your blog posts are great. Looking forward to your new post because I know it's also interesting like your older post. I will visit your blog regularly to check out for your new post. Have a nice day!!

  8. Quick question...
    You gave us a link to the old post & I read it, oh... so delightedly, but then, I decided to try to read other old posts and... they're not there! Is there any way we can read the archives of the old blog? Please?

    1. L, I'm not sure where those are or what's happening. It's such a bummer for me, but feel free to email me if there's ever a particular post I can help find!

    2. :( I'm sorry they moved them somewhere inaccessible or something. :( I just kind of wanted to read them again... 'cause after you left Baby Center (and I left Massachusetts), I stopped reading for a while until you moved here permanently.

      I really don't know why I kind of stopped reading, no good reason... (some guesses, didn't like that it was complicated to comment [but so it was at Baby center], or I resented the change? whatever)... anyway... I'd love to be able to go back & re-read the Dalai Mama posts...

      HA!!!! I found a way! I can go here:

      then I find the name of individual posts, but don't click on them (that will just lead me to Babble), but google "Dalai Mama" and the title of the post. That works like a charm!! YAY!!! :)

  9. This was wonderful and a lovely addition to our first picnic of the summer.

  10. I bought some farro at Trader Joe's, but didn't know what to do with it until I saw this recipe. It was delicious! Thank you!

  11. Dinner again! Love this! Thank you! Do you have any other subtly magnificent rice salads?

  12. This was fantastic! Fresh, nutty, rich and light all at the same time.