Photo Credit: Emma Alter
When I had my dinner party for thirty last week, it made me realize how much my cooking has changed over the past five years. I served marinated flank steak and some miso glazed salmon, but otherwise the vegetarians held sway at the buffet table. I made the button mushroom salad that I wrote about yesterday, a radish salad, a vegan potato salad, a green salad, a chickpea salad, grilled asparagus and cheese biscuits, along with three vegetarian appetizers of Parmesan thyme cookies, tomato basil pinwheels (which I will share tomorrow) and fresh pea crostini with ricotta. In the past, I would have used the vegetarian dishes as sides, rather than the stars of the show, and I probably would have made fewer of them. I might also have been inclined to add a bacon topping, or bites of chicken in salads which, understandably, makes vegetarians crazy.This is a terrific salad for a party. It just so happened that the colours of the vegetables in the salad reflected our decorating scheme, but that was a happy coincidence. I made my rice in a rice cooker, rather than boiling it, and laid it out on a pan to let it cool before preceeding with the rest of the recipe. I also ended up leaving one of the peppers out, because it was threatening to be a pepper salad with rice rather than the other way around. The beauty of this salad is that you can use it as a base and add whatever spring vegetable you like to it. I made it the way it was written, because I already had lots of spring vegetables on the table, but fiddleheads and asparagus are obvious additions that would be delicious. After my daughter took the photo, I added more basil for a bit more green colour.
This recipe is from the wonderful book Cucina Fresca by Viana La Place and Evan Kleiman. My sister-in-law Bonnie introduced me to it 26 years ago, and many of the recipes are as interesting today as they were then. That's what happens when you take good ingredients and use them simply. All the recipes in the book can be served cold or at room temperature, so it's not only a great party book, but also a great book for summer.
1 lb. long-grain white rice
4 ripe tomatoes, chopped
3 small bell peppers of assorted colours, seeded and chopped
2 celery stalks, cut into small dice
6 small tender carrots, peeled and cut into thin rounds
10 fresh basil leaves, chopped, or 2 tsp dried basil leaves, crumbled
1/4 cup fruit olive oil
Juice of 2 lemons
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1. Cook the rice in an abundant amount of boiling salted water in a large pot until the grains are tender yet still firm to the bite. Drain the rice in afine sieve. Run cold water over the rice until it feels cool to the touch. Drain the rice thoroughly.
2. Combine the tomatoes, peppers, celery, carrots and basil in a medium bowl. Add the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and peppers. Toss to mix. Add the drained rice and mix thoroughly
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