Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Rice Can Make a Great Cold Side Sish

Since my husband and I have been eating more healthily, upping the vegetable quantity, dropping simple carbs and eating only small amounts of meat, I have tried to get a bit creative with these ingredients. Since yesterday was July 4th, our Independence Day, I wanted some really great flavors for dinner, since my sister-in-law was coming over. I started thinking about rice. I love brown rice, and there are so many other types of whole grain rices available these days.
Cold Rice Salad with Blackberry Dressing
Cold Rice Salad with Blackberry Dressing

In particular, Lundberg (brand) has a wonderful mixture of rices all together in one package, and I have been buying this mix for many years. It tastes so great all on its own that (to my taste buds) it needs little enhancing. It is called "Wild Rice Blend," and is a mix of long grain brown rice, sweet brown rice, wild rice, whole grain Wehani rice, and whole grain black Japonica™ rice. Any one of these rices on its own would be great. All together? Fantastic! And I made it into a cold side dish (or "salad" if you will) with the most fantastic results. In the photo above, the pink color overall is due to the Blackberry Dressing I made and used in the salad.
The rice blend I used

As with most things, when I discover something new, I like to try more and more varieties. So, too, it has been with rice. Aside from the regular white long grain, basmati, "tex-mati," or jasmine rices, I usually have at least three or more other types available at home in my pantry. Right now I have brown rice, red rice, wehani rice, black rice (also called "forbidden rice") and purple sticky rice. Aside from Lundberg brand's wonderful single and combination rice blends, Lotus Foods also has some wonderful rice available. My black "Forbidden" rice, and red rice are from Lotus Foods. I also have gotten their Jade Pearl Rice, and want to try their Madagascar pink rice. 

Okay, enough on all the rice. All I want to get across is that there are so very many good whole grain rice types available these days, it would be a shame not to take advantage. On, for example, many of these packages of rice are only just over $3 apiece. I made this wonderful rice "salad" yesterday using the Lundberg Wild Rice Blend, but any of these whole grain rices individually would make an equally delightful substitute in my recipe. Granted, with the hot-pink color of the dressing, the color would be far less appetizing if using the Jade Pearl Rice, as it is a light green in color, due to it being infused with bamboo juice. Most other rice would be great. 

My sister-in-law buys fruits each year from a fruit club, and convinced me to try something. I chose blackberries, hence the Blackberry Dressing I used in this dish. On its own, the dressing is really lovely and delicious. This is the recipe:

Blackberry Dressing
Blackberry Dressing

Blackberry Dressing

Makes about 1½ cups.

½ cup extra virgin olive oil
6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 cup fresh blackberries
2 teaspoons honey or agave syrup
1½ teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, stems discarded
½ teaspoon dry mustard powder
16 drops liquid Stevia clear

Place all ingredients into a blender container and blend as finely as possible. Pour through a strainer, pressing to extract all liquids. Discard solids. Store the dressing in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Let stand for a few minutes at room temperature before using, to return the mixture to a more liquid state.

On to the Side Dish or Salad

When considering what to serve for our 4th of July feast, I chose Chicken with Indian Spices (recipe found here) and grilled asparagus. The chicken was a somewhat simplified version: I left out the black pepper and cardamom this time, and used far less oil and red wine vinegar. It was still amazing. Thinking further, I though of rice, and then thought about adding fresh vegetables into the rice, and opted to make it a cold, or at least cool dish. The main vegetables were onion, red bell pepper, spinach and carrot. Cilantro had to be added, because we love cilantro, but this can be replaced with parsley, if you happen to be one of those people (poor souls) who cannot abide cilantro. All of this went through my head when I received the many containers of blackberries. 

Amazing how the mind works sometimes!

Ultimately, the rice has to be cooked and cooled to room temperature, so this takes a little planning ahead. The Lundberg Wild Rice Blend needed to be cooked for 45 minutes. It took a further half hour or 45 minutes to cool down completely. I wanted the vegetables to remain crisp, so having the rice cooled completely was important. While the rice is cooking, it is easy to get the remainder of the ingredients assembled. Once the rice is cooled, just add it in and toss with the dressing.

If you have not made the Blackberry Dressing, another dressing of choice may be used, obviously with a slightly different flavor as the result. I would suggest something light and mildly sweet, such as Ken's Vidalia Onion Dressing or one of the many poppy seed dressings.

Cold Rice Salad with Blackberry Dressing
Cold Rice Salad with Blackberry Dressing
Cold Rice Salad with Blackberry Dressing

Serves 4 to 6

¾ cup Lundberg Wild Rice Blend, or other whole grain rice of choice
2 cups water 
½ teaspoon salt
½ small red onion, about ½ cup thinly sliced, quartered
cider vinegar
1 cup finely sliced fresh baby spinach (chiffonade)
½ red bell pepper, chopped small, about ¾ cup
1 small carrot, shredded, about ½ cup
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
¼ cup raisins
2 tablespoons Blackberry Dressing (recipe above)
In advance, cook the rice with the water and salt: bring the pot to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover tightly. Time the cooking for 45 minutes. If there is water remaining in the pan after 45 minutes, strain the water out, then fluff the rice and set aside to cool completely, to room temperature.

Set the half-onion on its side and cut lengthwise into 2 pieces. Cut across the onion into very fine slices. Separate all the strands and place them in a small bowl and cover with cider vinegar. This will remove the raw onion taste completely, leaving the onion sweet and flavorful with no harsh results later on. Leave to soak at least 10 minutes, then drain away the vinegar before using.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the soaked and drained onion, the spinach, bell pepper, carrot, cilantro and raisins. Mix in the dressing. Once the rice is cool, add it in and toss again to coat. Serve immediately or let set for up to 2 hours before serving if needed.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest at AHOFpin. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.