|I am not an animal! I am rice salad.
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
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.