Thursday, July 11, 2013

Black Rice Salad

This post is the documentation of another adventure in a new-to-me grain: Chinese black rice, also known as “forbidden rice.” I cooked up a pot of it and combined it with fresh sugar snap peas and avocado in a salad based on a recipe in Fine Cooking magazine. I was so happy with this dish that I’ve come to the conclusion that black rice might have to share the title with faro as my new best grain friend.

Chinese black rice is a medium-grain rice. The bran layer is intact and is responsible for its shiny black appearance. This rice is quite nutritious, largely because that bran layer has been left where it grew. It’s not only high in fiber but is also loaded with antioxidents, vitamins, minerals and iron. More important, though, is its deliciousness.

When cooked, black rice is chewy in texture and a little nutty in flavor. It doesn’t have a very strong flavor. It is, after all, rice, but it’s unique enough to put an interesting spin on your usual rice dishes. Let’s not underestimate, however, the effect of its striking appearance. Even after being cooked, the grains maintain a deep, deep purple hue that really is almost black. The bright greens of the snap peas, avocados and scallions made a pretty contrast in this salad.

I made a lime juice and roasted peanut oil dressing for my salad, which was quite a nice accompaniment with the rest of the ingredients. The peanut oil really gives the whole salad a peanutty flavor, so be prepared for that if you use it. If you wish to avoid peanut oil, olive oil or even a neutral oil like canola would make a nice salad dressing, too. I loved the roasted peanut flavor, so I added a handful of roasted salted peanuts to the salad as well.

You could use this salad as a starting point and add whatever vegetables are in season. I will say, however, that I particularly liked the contrast of the smooth, buttery avocado chunks with the chewy black rice. Leave them in if you can and you’ll be rewarded with something interesting.


For my first experience with Chinese black rice, I think this dish went really rather well. The recipe below makes a lot, and can probably be halved if desired. I’ve been taking leftovers to work in my lunchbox and they have held up very well. (The dressing appears to be acidic enough to keep the avocado from darkening too much to be unappetizing.) That convenience alone has made it worth it for me to make this big batch. It’s so delicious that I’m not getting tired of it, either…Plus, black rice is quite a conversation-starter among co-workers.

It’s new to me now, but I think Chinese black rice is going to be making many appearances on my dinner table…and in my lunchbox. Forbidden, schmorbidden!

Black Rice Salad with Snap Peas and Avocado
Adapted from Fine Cooking April/May 2013

If you can’t find Chinese black rice, aka forbidden rice (you might find it in the bulk and specialty foods sections of supermarkets or at natural food stores) you could use Thai black rice or any brown rice.

1 ½ cups Chinese black rice
2 ¾ cups water
4 ounces sugar snap peas, strings removed, coarsely chopped
½ cup chopped scallions
2 avocados, peeled and chopped
3 tablespoons lime juice
3 tablespoons roasted peanut oil
½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper (optional)
½ teaspoon coarse (kosher) salt
½ cup chopped roasted salted peanuts

1. Place the rice in a bowl and cover with plenty of water. Swish the rice around the bowl to rinse it. Drain and rinse again.

2. Place the rinsed rice in a medium-size saucepan. Add the 2 ¾ cups water and bring to a boil. Cover and boil gently about 30 minutes or until the rice grains are tender, but still separate. The water may not all be absorbed. Remove from the heat and partially cover. Cool to room temperature. The rice can be cooked a day or two ahead of time. If you do this, cover and chill until needed.

3. Place the cooked and cooled rice in a large bowl. Add the snap peas, scallions and avocado. Toss together to mix well.

4. I a small bowl, combine the lime juice, peanut oil, Aleppo pepper and salt. Whisk together until smooth and emulsified. Pour the dressing over the rice mixture and stir to coat. Sprinkle the salad with the peanuts.

Makes 6-8 servings. Cover and refrigerate leftovers for a few days.


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