Monday, January 11, 2016

Black Rice Salad

I only learned of black rice (or "forbidden rice") a few years ago.  When I stumbled upon a bin of it at a local health-food store I grabbed a few cups, put the bag away and forgot about it until recently.
Black rice, a whole grain rice high in nutritional value and teeming with antioxidants, is also known as purple rice for its vibrant color once cooked.  In 2016 I'll be moving away from consuming only one source of whole grains per day and incorporating grains into more of my meals, which means I no longer have to limit myself to "breakfast" carbs - a world of opportunities for pasta and rice dinners and lunches just opened up for me!  As such I knew I wanted to find a way to not only utilize the black rice wasting space in my pantry, but to really showcase its color in an appealing way.  I decided on a black rice and chicken salad (chicken and rice go so well together, but really couldn't be any more boring and colorless in terms of their visual presentation). With an abundance of limes on hand I decided to go with an assertive Southwest-inspired flavor profile.  I brainstormed a list of veggies to include that would not only complement each other in terms of taste and texture but would also represent all the colors of the rainbow, creating an orgy of tones and tastes to dazzle the eyes as well as the palette!
However, when I went to the store to pick up my produce list, I realized what I'd actually done: almost exactly re-create the fabulous Cookie & Kate's Fresh Mango Salsa and then add rice :(  Hopefully I still get points for creativity!  I made an enormous batch of the salsa, then added celery and the rice, and topped it all with my own freshly-squeezed orange vinaigrette.  You have to appreciate what a labor of love this was for me - I absolutely hate dicing.  (My neck actually hurt from looking at the freaking cutting board for so long.) When all was chopped, diced, squeezed, zested, salted and peppered, I took my first small bite to taste for seasoning.
And then the angels sang.
It was perfect, and I proceeded to immediately dish myself up two cups of the stuff and devour it right away.
I made two batches - one as a vegetarian side to serve with some steelhead trout filets, and another one-dish version with cubed chicken included as I had originally envisioned.  To think that this tasty salsa recipe could become the base for a delicious and diverse main dish has encouraged me to keep thinking outside the box.  What else could it be used for???

Note: I made at least twice this much, so I'm estimating for simplicity's sake

Black Rice Salad:

Mango Salsa (recipe adapted from Cookie & Kate):
3 ripe mangos, diced (or buy pre-sliced mango from Costco, because chopping is the actual worst)
1 medium red bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup red onion, diced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, diced
1 jalapeƱo, seeded and finely diced
1 lime, zested and juiced
1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper, or to taste

Chop and mix.  Easy.

Orange Vinaigrette:
Zest of one orange
1/2 orange, juiced
1 teaspoon apple cider vinaigrette
1/2 teaspoon sour cream (to emulsify)
1 pinch each salt and pepper
1 teaspoon grapeseed oil

Add all ingredients except the oil to a bowl and whisk.  Add the grapeseed oil a drip at a time while whisking vigorously until well blended.

Additional ingredients:
3 ribs celery, diced (for extra crunch)
3-4 cups cooked black rice (or just add until you reach your optimum rice-to-veggie ratio)
1-2 chicken breasts, cooked and cubed (optional)

Add the celery, then rice on top of the mango salsa and pour the finished vinaigrette directly onto the rice.  Add chicken if desired, mix and taste for seasoning.  Enjoy!

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