Few dishes are better suited to the dog days of summer
Few dishes are better suited to the dog days of summer than rice salads. They're light — most need little or no oil for the dressing — and are adaptable to a variety of ingredients. Rice is common in cuisines around the world. In some, cool rice salads are traditional, such as the Japanese chirashi-zushi [see Julianne Glatz, "If you knew sushi," March 22, 2007].
They can also be made with signature ingredients from cuisines that don't normally include rice salads. For a Greek rice salad, combine chopped tomatoes, sliced mild onion or scallion, fresh or dried oregano, fresh mint, and cubes of feta to cold cooked rice, then toss in some lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil. This salad is particularly good with grilled shrimp.
How about Italian? Tomatoes and onions would be
appropriate here, too, but for an Italian rice salad add strips of sliced
Genoa salami and Provolone or shaved Parmesan (or, if you like, a
combination of these cheeses). Other good additions are quartered artichoke
hearts, strips of roasted red pepper, and other roasted vegetables, such as
zucchini or eggplant, chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley, and basil. Mix in
a garlicky balsamic vinaigrette or some other good Italian dressing.
Brown rice works exceptionally well in salads. It's simply rice that has not had its outer layer of bran removed, but unfortunately some folks avoid it because of its association with sometimes dreary-sounding macrobiotic diets. Although it's true that badly cooked brown rice can seem like a mouthful of wheat chaff, well-prepared brown rice has a pleasing nuttiness that can't be found in white rice, and in many situations I prefer it for its taste and texture.
That outer layer of bran is what makes brown rice so good in salads. It keeps the grains separate and helps keep the rice from becoming gummy or sticky.
Pacific Rim Rice Salad is something I make frequently for dinner at home, for picnics, or to serve a crowd. The recipe comes from a New Zealand friend, Deb Hurt. Because New Zealand is so remote, it's not uncommon for young adults to travel around the world for a couple of years, often working in temporary jobs as they go, before returning home and settling down. Deb, and her husband, Greg, waited a little longer than that — I met them when they came to Springfield for two years in the 1990s with their three school-age children.
Hurt is a physical therapist, but she's also a
wonderful cook. So many people had requested this recipe that she'd
made copies; when I asked, she immediately had one for me. She'd
called it simply Brown Rice Salad, but for use in a cooking class, I
decided, it needed a less prosaic name. After some thought, "Pacific
Rim" seemed exactly right: It came from New Zealand and incorporated
the Japanese ingredients of soy sauce and brown sushi rice, as well as
American peanuts and sunflower seeds.
Contact Julianne Glatz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hurt served this salad as a side dish. Usually, though not always, I add the chicken to it to make a complete one-dish meal. I've also used leftover sliced steak or shrimp.
Pacific Rim Rice Salad
2 cup brown sushi rice, available in the ethnic sections of
most local grocery stores
1/2 cup soy sauce, preferably Kikkoman
1/4 cup peanut or other vegetable oil
Juice of one lemon
1 teaspoon grated lemon rinda
1 teaspoon grated ginger
2 teaspoons minced garlic, or to taste
One bunch scallions, thinly sliced
One red yellow pepper (or a combination), thinly sliced
One recipe Teriyaki-Marinated Chicken, optional
1 cup unsalted roasted peanuts
1/2 cup roasted sunflower seeds
Cook the rice in accordance with the package directions. When it's done but still hot, stir in the soy sauce. Let the rice stand for about 2 hours to absorb the soy sauce. Meanwhile, prepare the chicken, if you are using it, and grill or stir-fry it. Set the chicken aside to cool. In a small bowl, whisk together the peanut oil, lemon juice, lemon rind, and ginger, then stir it into the cooled rice. Stir in the cooled chicken. The salad can be prepared up to this point several hours or even a day or two ahead of time and kept refrigerated. Reserve some of the scallions and peppers for garnish and stir the rest into the rice. The salad can be made several hours ahead at this point as well and kept, refrigerated. Reserve some of the peanuts and sunflower seeds and mix in the rest just before serving. Garnish with the reserved scallions, peppers, peanuts, and sunflower seeds. Serves four to eight.
1-1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken,
cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup soy sauce, preferably Kikkoman
1 tablespoon brown sugar or honey
1 teaspoon grated ginger or ginger juice
2 tablespoon peanut oil or 1 tablespoon peanut oil
and 1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic, or more to taste
Combine the marinade ingredients in a resealable plastic bag. Seal the bag and squish the contents around until the brown sugar or honey has dissolved. Add the chicken and squeeze out as much air as possible, then let the bag stand for 30 minutes. Drain the meat and either grill it over hot coals or stir-fry it in a nonstick pan until done. This recipe can also be used to make kebabs or to prepare a whole chicken, cut into serving pieces (the pieces may be skinned or not, as you prefer). Chicken pieces should be marinated for one to two hours. The marinade also works well with beef, shrimp, tofu, or eggplant. Marinating time varies with size and absorbency: A large steak should marinate for about two hours, whereas beef cut into cubes for kebabs and shrimp, tofu, and eggplant should all marinate for 30 minutes to one hour; any longer, and the marinade will be overwhelming and salty.