Sunday, August 4, 2013

Rice and Vegetable Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette--Favorite Salad of the Summer or It's Good to be Home?

If I had to pick one thing to live off of this summer, this would be it.
 Dave and I are blessed to live in two places or at least to own houses in two places. I have to admit it doesn't always feel like a blessing; the economy has done such things to a lot of people.  Job one place and house in another.  One making money and the other spending it all.  But the beauty of a double life is that you, if you can manage it, maintain relationships in more than one place--unlike an out-and-out final, never going back move.  Then it's emails or Christmas cards and the rare visit.  As we have lot of friends in both places and even family, we're pretty much at home in both Minnesota and Colorado.  When we say, "It'll be good to get home," we could be on our way to either spot and are perfectly honest.  It makes the concept of home confusing sometimes.  Is home really one place?  Is it a place at all?

Flowers and tomatoes..and snow... grow in Minnesota.  We can walk to the store or across the street for a glass of wine.  We live in the city and it's quite noisy.  I have a job.  Our house is a hundred years old and no one mentions things like updating.  In fact, anything original is quite valuable.  We have the original woodwork and wood floors in this house and wouldn't change a thing.

Our grandson is in Colorado.  The house, built in 1973, is gorgeous, though it needs "updating," according to current wisdom and all of the people who didn't buy it. In 1988, all of the woodwork, the kitchen, and the bathrooms were updated. Later, new carpet was installed a time or two and a brand new kitchen added.  We have, in the eight years we've owned it, stripped all of the wallpaper, redone the sun room twice, updated one bath, and painted the house in neutral colors.  The decks have been painted or stained eight times and the cedar siding was redone last year.  I love the people on my street and miss them when I'm not there.

These are the golden eagles that nest near our Colorado house.  This is off our east deck.  I-25 below.  Dark horizon is Black Forest, just northeast of Colorado Springs.

One house is capital T-Tiny, as my old friend Susan Gimarc would say.  But my skin doesn't wrinkle there. Well, not quite so much, anyway.

The other house is spacious and the view is forever.  I have stock in body lotion and have to keep an eye out for altitude sickness when people visit.  Rice cooks in..oh, 25 minutes-- maybe.  Coffee is never really hot.  We live in town though it feels very rural and, while we have little traffic on our very quiet street, we are up on the mesa above the interstate.  White noise and comforting trains at night.

St. Paul kitchen before the new appliances. At right--my only prep space.
Neither has a big kitchen.  Sigh. I roll pie dough up the walls in each place and cook for a hundred people fairly easily no matter where I am.  While both kitchens are furnished, one is furnished with my "real" kitchen equipment and the other is functioning, but rather cabin-like--but only in some ways.  My good knives, every day French porcelain dishes, and best pots and pans are in St. Paul. My wedding crystal, though, is in Colorado, along with knives that cut, but are fairly disposable.  Cuisinarts are in both places, but the Kitchen Aid is where it belongs-in Minnesota for winter baking.  If you ever rent a house for a vacation, you know what I mean.  Your spices are at home and you have no fish sauce.  You keep thinking you'll remember to bring crushed red pepper next year because the stuff they left in the cabinet is not red, but a nasty old beige.

Colorado house kitchen

This salad is one that can be made anywhere and is based on that prize-winning recipe ingredient, leftover take-out rice.  I always have the ingredients for a vinaigrette at hand; the rest is just vegetables you can buy in most markets or grocery stores and aren't even season-dependent.   In other words, you could make it if you were at home and also when you're not.  Unlike me, you may know the difference.  The herbs are interchangeable, as are the spices and the vegetables.   You can use all fresh vegetables, though I like a combination of fresh and cooked.  I included the corn off a couple of leftover roasted ears of corn--a good use for it.

While this makes a big bowlful, you'll be glad you have it.  Add a little feta cheese and/or kalamata olives for dinner the next night or take a big plate topped with sliced almonds to work for lunch.  Leave this is the frig for a few days and never cook.  If you're into grilling, this is a perfect side from anything from brats to chicken to chops to shrimp. I'll share with you that I made this the other night for friends and after dinner and dessert (homemade raspberry sorbet) were finished, they both went back to the table and had more of this salad.  Be sure and season it well, thoroughly, and to your own taste.

rice and vegetable salad with mustard vinaigrette

6 servings

3 cups leftover rice (cold or room-temperature)----I like jasmine
Kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, crushed red pepper
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh herbs, chopped (basil or thyme would be my choices)
1/4 cup red onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup peeled and chopped cucumber
1/2 each red and yellow bell pepper, chopped
Kernels from two cooked ears of corn (about one cup of cooked corn)
1/2 cup each steamed green beans, asparagus, zucchini, chopped (any combination)
Mustard Vinaigrette (recipe below)
Red Wine Vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil
Cherry or chopped tomatoes for garnish

In a large bowl, massage rice your hands to break it up and separate the grains.  Season with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper, as well as 1/8 teaspoon (pinch) of the crushed red pepper and the lemon juice.  Add parsley  through cooked vegetables and stir in the vinaigrette.  Mix well.  Splash a little additional red wine vinegar over all and, right before serving, drizzle with a bit more olive oil. Taste again for seasoning.   Garnish with tomatoes.

 Mustard Vinaigrette:

Whisk together:  
  • 1/2 large shallot, minced
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (or more to taste)
  • pinch salt and pepper

Drizzle in, whisking, until well combined or emulsified:
  •  4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 
Have fun cooking and taking care of yourself,

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