Sunday, November 2, 2014

Chopped Brown Rice Salad with Grapes and Pecans

Two posts in one day?  Yup, that's what happens on a weekend when Mark is working both days and I am trying to avoid housework and homework :)

Anyway... speaking of things you don't expect, here's a great salad!  As you know, I'm not a big fan of salads.  I love vegetables, but most salads don't do it for me.  They are boring.  Plus I think I hate lettuce, so if lettuce has to be the star of the show, then it's a show that I don't want to see.  Something else has to be in the spotlight.

In this salad, the spotlight is on juicy, sweet grapes, which are unexpected in a chopped salad where everything is all savory and salty and tangy.  Then there's brown rice, which gives the salad some interesting texture and chewy bites, along with pecans, which happen to be my favorite nut.  The recipe calls for ricotta salata, but that's clearly a cheese that I didn't have on hand, so feta was a good substitute.  A mustard vinaigrette ties it all together.  And yeah, there's lettuce.  But the lettuce is more of a backup singer than the main actor, and so it's okay.

I was actually surprised how much my family liked this salad.  I brought it over to my mother's one day when they were grilling last month.  Mark and my mom especially liked it; Mark happily devoured the leftovers for days.  For any salad to grab my attention, and the attentions of those two, you know it's got to be something special.  It's a good salad for this time of year; grapes are still good, and pecans are so fall-early-winter-ish, and brown rice is just always awesome.  So this is a recipe you probably want to hang on to.  These next couple months are full of times when you are going to binge on unhealthy things, and you just may want a salad to help you detox after that!


chopped brown rice salad with grapes and pecans
from The Kitchn
serves 6 - 8


For the salad:
1 cup brown rice, long- or short-grained
1 cup whole pecans
1 heart of romaine
2 cups red grapes
1 cup crumbled ricotta salata
For the vinaigrette:
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard
Salt and pepper
1) Bring a 2-quart pan of water to a boil. Add the rice and a teaspoon of salt. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the rice is chewy and cooked through. Drain and set aside.
2) While the rice is cooking, heat the oven to 350°F and spread the nuts on a baking sheet. Roast the nuts in the oven for about 10 minutes, stirring once or twice, until toasted a darker shade of brown and very fragrant. When cool enough to handle, transfer the nuts to a cutting board and roughly chop. Set aside.
3) Slice the hard of romaine down its length into quarters and then chop each quarter cross-wise into thin slices. Slice the grapes into quarters.
4) To make the vinaigrette, combine the vinegar, olive oil, brown mustard, a healthy pinch of salt, and a few cracks of black pepper in a small bowl. Whisk to combine, taste, and adjust any of the ingredients to taste as needed.
5) Combine the cooked rice, chopped pecans, chopped romaine, and grapes in a large mixing bowl. Pour the vinaigrette over the salad mix. Stir and toss the salad until all the ingredients are evenly coated. Stir in the crumbled ricotta salata, reserving a few crumbles to sprinkle over the top of the dish. Taste and add additional salt and pepper if needed.
6) Transfer to a serving bowl and top with the reserved ricotta salata. Leftovers will keep for about 5 days refrigerated.

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