Friday, June 4, 2010

herbs and rice

This spring already feels like mid-summer. Ninety degrees today!? My herb garden is in full flourish and perfect for the picking.
Large handfuls of fresh chopped herbs are going in to everything I cook on these warm days.

A dear friend recently took me on a shopping trip to the Korean supermarket H Mart on Union Street in Flushing Queens. What a treasure trove of edible goodies! I had never been to a store quite like it. There was an entire wall display devoted to kimchee (natch) and spicy pickles in every imaginable and unimaginable variety. I was in awe. There were walls of shelves devoted to single items like varieties of soy bean paste and another for just sea salt! Too fantastic. I left with my arms loaded. One of the treasures I lugged home was this bag of organic short grain brown rice. 

The plastic package resembled rice paper. Who could resist such cuteness?

Brown rice seemed like the perfect vehicle for some fresh herbs so I made a salad. Brown rice salad usually steers my inspiration towards the direction of sweetness, with lots of dried fruit, but this time I wanted to do something lemony and fresh that would feature herbs and some vegetables. 

There were three varieties of brown rice in this blend (all from California, not Korea): Organic Brown Rice, Organic Sweet Brown Rice, Organic Black Rice. 

This brown rice salad can be made in advance and brought on a picnic. I am going to share it with friends tomorrow at the Belmont Stakes race. I hope it doesn't rain.

Brown Rice Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

1 quart water
3 Tbs. salt
1/2 cup green beans cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 cup zucchini cut into a small dice
1 cup of Brown Rice
3 Tbs. chopped herbs (parsley, mint, basil, oregano, marjoram, chives)
1/4 cup toasted nuts (almond, cashew, walnut, pine)
1/4 cup currents
2 scallions, minced
Juice of 1/2 lemon
zest of 1/2 lemon
4 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil

Bring water to a boil and add salt. Blanch the green beans in the boiling water till tender- 5 minutes. Lift beans out of boiling water with a slotted spoon. Add the zucchini to the water and boil for 1 minute, to get the raw edge of but not cooked through, lift the zucchini out of the water and set aside with the green beans to cool (shock the vegetables in ice water if you like. I just run them under cold water for a few minutes to stop the cooking)
Add the brown rice to the water and cook at a rolling boil for 30-40 minutes until the rice is tender. Drain the cooked rice in a strainer and put it into a bowl with the green beans, zucchini, chopped herbs, toasted nuts, currents and scallions. Toss to combine ingredients, then add the lemon juice and lemon zest. Toss again. Add the olive oil and taste. Adjust seasonings.
Allow to rice to cool to room temp before refrigerating. Serve chilled or at room temp. Can be made the day before and stored in a covered container in the fridge.
Makes about 3 cups.

Deb, you shared this recipe at the perfect time! I am currently undergoing my annual "body cleanse". My diet for the next two weeks consists of all things natural. Nothing processed,  or out of a box (rice is OK). Just veggies, fruits, brown rice, get the picture. So far, so good. We just have to see now how I get by this weekend without any wine.

A great hot weather wine that would be perfect with this light, summery rice salad would be Vinho Verde from Portugal. This delightful white comes from the Minho region in the northern part of the county. Low in alcohol, it is a pleasure to sip on a hot afternoon. The name means "green wine" - not in reference to the color, but rather its youthfulness. It is made to be drunk within a year. While it cannot qualify as a "sparkling" wine, it does have a "fizziness" to it.

With its characteristic citrus/herbal flavors, it would be wonderful paired with Deb's brown rice recipe. The rice salad (but not the wine) will definitely be on my menu over the next two weeks!

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