Happy 4th weekend. We are fortunate to be at our cabin overlooking the Black Mountains in North Carolina. Many days here on the ridge are breathtakingly beautiful and other days are beautiful in their own way…the socked in by fog days. Today is one of those days. Can you see the fog coming in on my little chipmunk friend trying to get in his quick lunch? To me, there is something magical about being surrounded by clouds and the wonderful “excuse” to have to stay put. A nice change of pace for this hurried world. A wonderful time to read a book, (write a blog!!), play a board game-I have to admit I am looking forward to a game of CLUE after lunch, or to just relax and renew.
My cooking style here at our cabin is somewhat adventuresome on days like this. When you can’t get out for food, you can get creative! Lucky for me, one of our last guests left some rice. They were from Louisiana, too, so no doubt for a big pot of Gumbo! Today the rice will become our lunch. (Doesn’t look like much now, but wait!) We got a chance to grill last night so I have some leftover grilled zucchini and a few salad fixings, so lunch today will be Rice Salad.
Leftover Rice Salad: A quick and easy lunch! To 1 cup cold rice add in whatever “leftover” vegetables (1/2 cup to 3/4 cup) or salad fixings you have on hand. I have the grilled zucchini, cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks, and cucumber slices.Don’t forget about any lunch meat or cheese, too. I have a few cubes of feta cheese. Roughly chop the “leftovers” and add to the rice. For the dressing, I like a simple oil and vinegar. Mix together 1 TBSP plus 1 tsp Red Wine Vinegar and 2 TBSP plus 2 tsp Olive Oil, 1/4 tsp black pepper and 1/4 tsp salt. I like to use a jar or cruet to shake my dressings well. Stir the dressing into the rice and vegetable mixture.. Toss to coat. Put mixture into ramekins. Use your hands to pack the mixture in tight forming a mold. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. This “molding” step is optional, but at least let the salad chill for one hour, (or overnight for tomorrow’s lunch). The flavors need time to get to know each other well!
If you didn’t mold the rice salad, enjoy it as is or stuffed inside pita bread. To unmold rice salad, put plate on top of ramekin and invert plate, give ramekin a few good taps and remove. Enjoy on a bed of lettuce or spinach. (I like to make a small bed on top of rice mold before inverting.)
Lunch is served.
Put your TO COOK IS TO CREATE thinking cap on: What vegetables do you usually have leftover? What flavors would accompany each other well? Black olives would have been tasty today or grilled pepper, or both! What protein can you add? Rotisserie chicken always good. Have leftover stir fry veggies? Add peanuts and replace the salt and pepper with soy sauce for the dressing and serve over cabbage. What about a Mexican rice salad with black beans, corn, jalapenos, jack cheese with a salsa vinaigrette? Just add some salsa to the dressing! Don’t be limited to white rice for a salad. Nuts and dried fruits are delightful with wild rice.
FOOD FUN: How about substituting rice for pasta in your favorite pasta salad? How about using rice instead of potatoes in your potato salad recipe, especially German Potato Salad, warm rice is wonderful! Think of rice like a sponge in the way it absorbs flavors. Have fun in the kitchen with rice. Get creative. Remember Rice Rounds? After it is planted, it takes an estimated 105 days before rice is ready to be harveted…a little different from those convenient microwave rice packs…don’t let them go to waste!