Summer Rice Salad  Recipe
Summer Rice Salad

by Wolfgang Puck

Good cooking and good eating are all about contrast and balance. You've probably seen me talking about combining hot and cold, tender and crispy, salty and sweet, cooked and raw.

One of the best examples of what I sometimes call the yin and yang of cooking is especially important at this time of year. And that is the need to complement a rich and robust main course with a light, healthy, and tasty side dish.

When planning their menus for meals cooked outdoors, most people start with the burgers, sausages, steaks, or chicken: something meaty and hearty. Then, more often than not, they add something else that's rich and heavy: a big homemade potato salad, or cole slaw with a creamy dressing.

Now, please don't get me wrong. I like those traditional side dishes. I'm also aware, however, of today's widespread and growing interest in eating more healthfully. And I myself am always on the lookout for side dishes that are lower in calories, higher in fiber, and packed with the vegetables of which we all know we're supposed to get five servings a day.

That's why I'm so happy to share with you here my recipe for Summer Rice Salad. Based on fiber-rich brown rice cooked in vegetable broth, it has enough earthy flavor and chewy texture to make you forget about potato salad. But it also features an abundance of red bell pepper, cucumber, red onion, and green onion, all cut up into tiny pieces that toss beautifully and evenly with the rice. A zesty lemon-and-olive-oil dressing and chopped fresh herbs complete the fresh, flavorful combination.

Even better, the salad is simplicity itself to prepare. Cook the rice. Then, spread it out on a baking sheet to cool completely while you prepare the vegetables and dressing. Finally, toss everything together, adding the herbs. The only tip I would add to ensure success is to season the rice when it cooks, and then season the salad again to taste when you toss it.

Beyond that, you can get as creative as you like with the recipe. Add different crunchy or crispy vegetables. Spice things up with some diced chili pepper, if you like. Include other fresh herbs in place of or along with the cilantro. Toss in some toasted nuts or seedless raisins. You don't have to make the same exact salad twice. And you can prepare it up to a day ahead if that's more convenient, just being sure to add the herbs at the last minute to keep their taste fresh.

Try it with your cookout this weekend, and you can go on making it all summer long. Happy grilling season!

Summer Rice Salad Recipe

Serves 4 to 6

1 pound brown rice

2 cups organic vegetable broth

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Juice and grated zest of 1 lemon

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 small red onion

1 large organic cucumber

1 red organic bell pepper

1 bunch organic green onions

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Freshly ground black pepper

Put the rice, broth, salt, and cinnamon in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat; then, cover, reduce the heat to very low, and cook for 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside, still covered, until the rice is done to your taste, 10 to 20 minutes longer. (Alternatively, cook the rice in the broth in an electric rice cooker, following the manufacturer's instructions.)

Uncover the rice and spread it on a clean baking sheet. Leave it at room temperature to cool completely.

While the rice is cooling, prepare the dressing and the vegetables.

For the dressing, first thoroughly wash the lemon and dry with paper towels or a clean kitchen towel. Finely grate the zest, the thin outermost yellow layer of the peel, into a large mixing bowl. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice into the bowl through a fine-meshed strainer. Add the olive oil and stir well.

Halve, trim, and peel the red onion, cut it into small dice, and transfer the onion to the mixing bowl. Peel the cucumber and cut it in half lengthwise; with your fingertip or the tip of a teaspoon, scoop out the seeds from each half; then, cut the cucumber into small dice, and add to the bowl. Halve, stem, seed, and devein the bell pepper; cut into small dice and add to the bowl. Trim both ends of the green onions; cut them crosswise into thin slices and add them to the other vegetables. Set aside.

Add the cooled rice to the vegetables and dressing. Toss until thoroughly mixed. Taste and adjust the seasonings with more salt, if necessary, and freshly ground black pepper.

Serve the salad at room temperature or cold, stirring in the cilantro just before serving.


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