Sunday, September 12, 2010

Rice Salad

Why don’t we make more rice salads? Okay, maybe you make them every day, so I’m really asking, “Why don’t I make more rice salads?” You can make just about any pasta or grain salad into a rice salad. You just play swap the starch and you’re there.

Recently, while I was filing some papers, I came across a rice salad recipe with a spicy peanut dressing. I think I had set it aside with the intention of making it to use up some bok choy, which has been really nice from the CSA this year. I only had to change dinner plans a little bit to make this right away, and I’m quite happy that I made that delicious detour. I only used one large stalk from the huge bok choy head, however, so I’m going to have to find something else to do with the rest of it.

The dressing for this salad is similar to other peanut dressings and sauces I’ve tried, but that just makes it more popular around here. I was originally skeptical about the texture of a thick peanut butter dressing on brown rice, thinking it would just be sticky and mushy, but the chicken-and-vegetable to rice ratio is high enough to keep things from getting too stodgy. The dressing is also a bit simpler than others I’ve made. It consists of just peanut butter and liquid ingredients, so there’s no mincing garlic or grating ginger to hold you back. I warmed the peanut butter in the microwave briefly to make it easier to mix with the other ingredients.

This salad is particularly easy if you happen to have leftover rice and chicken on hand. I used grilled chicken breast, but you could use any cooked chicken. The original recipe called for grilled tofu, so you could use that, or even shredded cooked pork. To save time, you could also use packaged grated carrots or a coleslaw mix in place of the bok choy and carrots. Really, as long as you keep a good balance of rice, protein, vegetables and dressing, you could put anything you like in a salad like this. Gee, if that’s the case, why don’t we make more rice salads?

Chicken and Rice Salad with Spicy Peanut Dressing
Based on a recipe in Cooking Light magazine

1 ½ cups cooked brown rice
4 ounces (about 1 cup) shredded or chopped cooked chicken
1 cup shredded carrot
1 cup thinly sliced bok choy stems and leaves
½ cup finely chopped green onions
¼ cup chopped cilantro
¼ cup creamy peanut butter
1 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce (I used reduced sodium)
1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce
1/3 cup chopped peanuts

1. Combine the rice, chicken, carrot, bok choy, green onions and cilantro in a large bowl.

2. Place the peanut butter in a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on HIGH for 20 seconds. (This will make the peanut butter easier to stir.)

3. Add the rice vinegar, soy sauce and chili garlic sauce to the peanut butter. Whisk until very smooth and shiny. Add the dressing to the rice mixture and stir to coat completely. Top with chopped peanuts.

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