Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Millet and Rice Salad with Sweet Chile Dressing

I made this salad to test the concept of Thai sweet chile sauce, which you can find in larger supermarkets alongside the other Asian condiments, in a vinaigrette over a grain salad. Why grain salad? Because I have plenty of whole grains in my pantry that aren’t doing anybody any good just sitting there. Why Thai sweet chile sauce? Because I love it.

For a condiment with the word “chile” in its title, Thai sweet chile sauce isn’t really all that spicy. I had hoped it would pack a bigger punch in this salad, but I really liked this salad anyway. If you’d like something spicier, you could always add some kind of hot sauce to the dressing. The short grain brown rice and millet that I used here can take in a lot of flavor, so I kept adding chile sauce and rice vinegar until I thought the flavor was right. The result is hearty, as rice and grain salads tend to be, but lightly sweet, tangy and refreshing.

I really like the combination of scallions, red bell pepper and peanuts as additions to the rice and millet, but different seasons could certainly call for different vegetables. I’d especially like to add diced cucumbers, peas or snap peas, or even diced radishes or some little snips of toasted nori. The peanuts could also be replaced with sunflower or sesame seeds if you avoid peanuts, and, while I really like the flavor of the roasted peanut oil in the dressing, you could replace that with canola oil or some other neutral-tasting oil.

I start the recipe instructions with uncooked millet and rice, but if you already have some cooked grains on hand, you could, of course use those instead. I chose these grains because they needed to be used up, and I like the combination. The short grain brown rice has a pleasantly floral fragrance and the chewy millet fills in the spaces between the rice grains. The flavor of neither grain is very strong, so they’re great as a foundation for this flavorful salad.

Millet and Rice Salad with Sweet Chile Dressing
The cooked rice amounts to a generous 3 cups and the millet about 2 cups. You can start with these measurements if you happen to have cooked grains on hand.

You could certainly use a different kind of rice or a different grain than millet to make this salad. Just adjust cooking water and times as needed.

1 cup short grain brown rice
½ cup millet
3 cups water, divided
½ cup diced red bell pepper
½ cup finely chopped scallions
3 tablespoons roasted peanut oil
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
¼ cup rice vinegar
3 tablespoons Thai sweet chile sauce
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup chopped peanuts (I used lightly-salted cocktail peanuts)

1. In a medium saucepan, combine the rice and 2 cups water. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and boil gently until the rice is tender and the water is absorbed. Meanwhile, combine the millet and remaining 1 cup water in a small saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and boil gently until the millet is tender and the water is absorbed. Transfer both of the cooked grains to a bowl to cool. Stir gently occasionally to keep from getting too sticky.

2. When the rice and millet have cooled to room temperature, stir together along with the red bell pepper and scallions.

3. In a small bowl, combine the peanut oil, sesame oil, rice vinegar, chile sauce and salt. Whisk until well combined and slightly thickened. Pour over the rice mixture and stir to coat. Stir in the chopped peanuts.

Makes about 6 servings. Leftovers will last a few days in the refrigerator, but the peanuts will likely soften upon storing.

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