Baking is my first love in the kitchen. I really do enjoy cooking now, but originally it was out of necessity that I learned to cook since I couldn’t (or at least shouldn’t) eat cookies for dinner every night. So to be honest I was a bit disappointed when my husband was assigned to bring salad for his work holiday potluck. I usually use those types of events to bake a special treat and it generally goes over really well. But my husband didn’t want to make a big deal of it so I decided to use the opportunity to try a new salad recipe. I flipped through some of my favorite cookbooks for ideas and happened upon a recipe for rice salad. Now of course I’ve heard of pasta salad before but rice salad was new to me. It seemed perfect for this type of event though, something that can be made in advance, easily transported, and served at room temperature. So I decided to give it a shot. And I’m glad I did. This dish is a great last minute side dish for your holiday meal. The red from the cranberries and hints of green from the green onions and cilantro give it a festive appearance and the flavors are unusual but delightful, with a sweet and savory combination of ginger, coriander, and a little cayenne pepper for heat.
Reading through the original recipe, I wasn’t so sure what to expect, since frankly, the recommended ingredients sounded a bit odd in combination. But somehow it works. The other thing I learned from this recipe was how to make a creamy and flavorful vinaigrette dressing in my food processor, which opens up a whole new world of unique salads. I’m sure I’ll come back to that technique in the future.
-I used a rice cooker to prepare the basmati rice but you can make rice on the stove as well.
-Toast almonds by cooking them in a small skillet over medium heat for 6-8 minutes. Watch them closely because there’s a fine line between toasted and burned and it’s really easy to cross that line.
Rice Salad with Dried Cranberries and Almonds (adapted from How to Cook Everything)
Yield: 6 servings
4 cups cooked basmati rice
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1/4 cup chopped green onion
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1. In a large bowl, combine the rice, cranberries, almonds, and green onion.
2. Prepare the vinaigrette by combining the olive oil, vinegar, and salt and pepper in a mini food processor or blender and process until it appears creamy. Then add the peeled roughly chopped shallot and process until fine. Taste the dressing to adjust the salt and pepper as needed. Pour the vinaigrette over the rice mixture.
3. Add the coriander, ginger, and cayenne, along with additional salt and pepper to taste, and fluff the rice to separate the grains and combine all the ingredients. Stir in the cilantro.
4. Serve at room temperature. This can be refrigerated for a day but should be brought back to room temperature before serving.