Rice salads are easy, inexpensive, delicious and infinitely versatile. They travel and hold well and are an appealing feature if you are the kind of person who hates showing up with the same dish every year at a family gathering or worse, the same dish someone else brings!
You may use any type of rice for salad making, including the quick cooking, boil-in-the-bag types. However, the best results come from a fresh pot of rice. Allow it to partially cool rather than using cold, leftover rice.
When rice has been in the refrigerator its starch cells collapse and squeeze out moisture. This makes the grains harder. You can offset the hardening effect somewhat by adding about two tablespoons of water per cup of cooked rice and placing it in the microwave until it is just warm.
Long Grained Rice
Many cooks prefer long-grained rice for salads because it cooks up lighter, drier and fluffier. If you plan to chill the salad, try the short or medium-grained varieties, which cook up softer and moister. Rice salads taste best at room temperature, but follow normal food handling guidelines: do not leave them out more than a couple of hours, especially if they contain highly perishable proteins such as meats, seafood, eggs and dairy products.
Vinaigrettes are nice in rice salads. Add them and toss about 20 minutes before serving to let the flavors mingle. Taste before serving and add more to adjust the seasonings if necessary. Do not be shy when making rice salads. Use whatever ingredients you have on hand. A simple dressing, your favorite herbs and seasonings, a few fresh vegetables and maybe some bits of seafood or meat can turn plain rice into creative, colorful and delicious main courses or side dishes.
Rice Salad with Apricots and Currants Recipe
This very colorful salad has a lot of texture and depth of flavor. You would expect it to be a little sweet because of the apricots and currants, but the savoriness is a surprise. It is actually a variation of the Quinoa Salad. Serve it at room temperature or slightly chilled.
1/4 cup uncooked wild rice
1/2 cup uncooked basmati rice
2-1/2 tablespoons minced dried apricots
1/3 cup dried currants
1/3 cup finely diced red onions
1/3 cup sliced scallions
1/2 tablespoon orange juice
1/2 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon orange zest
Freshly ground black pepper
Cook the wild rice and basmati rice separately. The free-boiling time is 40 minutes and 30 minutes, respectively. Alternatively, you can follow the package instructions, being sure not to add any salt or butter.
When they are done, toss with the apricots, currants, onions and scallions. Combine the orange juice, rice wine vinegar, black pepper and orange zest separately. Add the rice mixture, salt and more pepper to taste.
Recipe makes 3 cups (3 servings).
Nutrition information per serving (1/4 cup): Calories: 218; Total fat: 0.2g; Saturated fat: trace; Cholesterol: 0mg
Cold Wild Rice Salad Recipe
1 6-ounce pkg. long grain and wild rice mix
1 8-ounce can sliced water chestnuts, drained
1/2 cup chopped celery (1 stalk)
1/2 cup sliced green onions (4 medium)
1/2 cup seedless red grapes, halved
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 11-ounce can of mandarin orange sections, drained
2/3 cup toasted chopped pecans
Prepare rice mix according to package directions, except do not add oil or butter. Cool. In a large bowl, stir together rice mixture, water chestnuts, celery, green onions, and grapes. In a screw-top jar, combine olive oil, lemon juice, and pepper. Cover; shake well. Pour lemon juice mixture over rice mixture; toss to coat.
Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least four hours or up to 24 hours. To serve, gently stir in mandarin oranges and pecans. Recipe makes eight to ten side-dish servings.
Nutrition information per serving (one-eighth recipe): Calories: 219; Total fat: 12g; Saturated fat: 1g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 302mg; Carbohydrates: 28g; Fiber: 3g; Protein: 3g. Dietary Exchanges: 1-1/2 starch, 1/2 fruit, 2 fat
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