March 7, 2012

Crunchy Golden Rice Salad

One of my favorite hearty salads is a variation on the Jeweled Golden Rice recipe from the June/June 2006 issue of Eating Well. This savory dish marries great celery crunch with the the sweet/tart flavors of citrus and fresh cherries and combines whole grains with enough fresh fruits and vegetables to call it a salad. Right now we've got several feet of snow on the ground to remind me that it's a long wait to cherry season. But whenever I see cherries at the market, this recipe springs to mind.

The original recipe starts with cooking brown basmati rice in low-sodium chicken broth. I can't use chicken broth to cook for my family these days, but this recipe works equally well with vegetable broth. In our house, that veggie broth also needs to be soy-free. There's a vegetable broth produced by Pacific Natural Foods that's OK and several stores here carry it. I prefer the flavor of Safeway's house brand, O Brand Organics. Safeway isn't our favorite store, but I go there to stock up on broth. This recipe is readily gluten-free if you use gluten-free broth.

Fair warning: This isn't a recipe you can throw together at the last minute. The flavors and textures really benefit from chilling for at least an hour after tossing the dressing on the rice. Or put another way, this is a good dish to make ahead if want to get the cooking done and the kitchen cleaned up before company comes over.

Crunchy Golden Rice Salad (With Cherries)

Ingredients to get started:
   1 Cup brown basmati rice
   2 Cups vegetable broth
   1 Tablespoon curry powder (I like the mild yellow curry powder from our local shop Summit Spice)
   1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
   one pinch crumbled saffron threads (if you don't have saffron add a bit more turmeric for color)

Bring the above ingredients to a boil in a sauce pan, cover, reduce heat and simmer approximately 35 minutes until the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat. Let stand 5 minutes and then fluff with a fork.

While the rice is cooling,  whisk together in a large glass bowl or plastic container:
   3 Tablespoons canola oil
   1/3 Cup lemon juice
   3 Tablespoons honey
   1 Tablespoon orange zest (a microplane grater works well for this)
   1 Tablespoon minced fresh ginger (keep the microplane out and use it for ginger too)

Add in:
   All the cooked rice
   2 Cups chopped celery
   3/4 Cup chopped dried cherries (or don't chop them, your choice)

Stir to combine well. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour and as much as a couple of days.

Just before serving fold in:
   1/4 Cup chopped scallions
   1 Cup fresh dark sweet cherries pitted and chopped
   3/4 Cup pistachios

The original recipe suggested using a mix of unsalted pistachios, almonds, and cashews. My husband is allergic to almonds. I'm not a big fan of cashews. So I just use pistachios. I use salted pistachios and omit the salt called for in the original recipe. If you like almonds and cashews, use them. If you use unsalted nuts then add a pinch of salt to the dressing to brighten the flavor.

To make it prettier at the table, hold back half of the scallions and some nuts and sprinkle those on top at the end.