I wasn’t thinking about rice salad until I read the latest post on Gastronauta, my favorite Italian food site. Blogger Cristina Rombola talks about her family’s take on this summer classic, so easy to stash in the fridge for snacking or pack for beach trips and picnics.
Now I can’t wait to try their rice salad.
According to Rombola, the essential additions to an insalata di riso are giardiniera (pickled vegetables), canned tuna, cherry or grape tomatoes, small cubes of ham and cheese. The recipe also includes fresh peas, beets and the option of adding mayonnaise to the olive oil dressing.
In my run-up to making this rice salad, I might whip up a batch of giardinera–the colorful pickled vegetables keep well and are great to have on hand as an ingredient, sandwich side or antipasto platter component. But if I’m feeling lazy, I’ll buy giardiniera n a jar.
Even if your Italian is limited to “ciao” and “grazie,” you can figure out how to make the Gastronauta salad with the help of an Italian dictionary and metric scale.
Or you can try MY rice salad, with somewhat different add-ins: roasted bell peppers, fennel or celery, and snipped fresh herbs.
What these two recipes have in common are makings that hit the right flavor and texture notes: crunchy, soft and savory, tangy. Whichever version you make–theirs, mine or your own–you can’t lose.
Rice Salad with Roasted Peppers and Mozzarella
(from Piatto Unico: When One Dish Makes a Real Italian Meal)
Makes 4 to 5 servings
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Juice of a small lemon (3 to 4 tablespoons)
Sea salt or kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups Carnaroli or Arborio rice
2 small red and/or yellow bell peppers, roasted, peeled and cut in small squares
½ cup diced fennel bulb or celery
¼ cup black Mediterranean olives, pitted, halved or slivered
¼ cup chives, basil or flat-leaf parsley leaves, snipped in small pieces with scissors
6 to 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, diced small
2 cups baby arugula, optional
1. In a serving bowl large enough to hold the salad, whisk the olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste.
2. Fill a large saucepan about two-thirds full of water and a small handful of salt. Add the rice, stirring well, and simmer until just tender, about 10 minutes. Turn into a colander or strainer and cool under a gentle stream of running water; drain well. Transfer to the bowl with the dressing and stir gently.
3. Mix the bell pepper, fennel, olives (if using), and chives into the rice. Taste and add more salt or pepper if needed. Let the flavors blend for up to an hour at room temperature (or longer, refrigerated).
4. Just before serving, fold in the mozzarella. Pass the serving bowl or serve in shallow bowls lined with baby arugula.