Mar 30, 2011

Spring, finally (time to make rice salad)


Yes, it's officially here.
Jumpers and overcoats get pushed to the bottom of the closet, with cool cotton and light linen beginning to forward in the frontline. Grassy patches are dotted with small daisies, and the balmy Roman air is swirling with pollen and sycamore fuzz (my heart is with you, allergic subjects. This time of year's not equally welcomed). I love spring. Clocks are wound forward, granting longer hours of sunlight; hormones surge and everyone looks happier on their scooters and bicycles.

I like to welcome the onset of primavera with exaggerated enthusiasm, spending lots of time outdoors, rolling around in damp grass with my toddler, and anticipating classic summer recipes.
Quintessence of these (and thrifty re-use of leftovers) is INSALATA DI RISO, a chilled pasta salad, where rice is used instead of the pasta, and many finely chopped ingredients are tossed in for flavor.

Image © Corbis
I've made this recipe extra rich to give you an idea of what can go into Insalata di Riso. Feel free to tone it down, substitute other things, or adding more for variety, according to your taste. One ingredient I commonly find in this preparation is mozzarella. As much as I like the milky pasta filata cheese, and pair it to almost anything I can think of, I somehow find it inappropriate in this preparation. But that's just me.


300 gr (1 1/2 cups or 5 fistfuls) parboiled rice (the grains should not stick)
Either: 250 gr (1 cup) oil-canned tuna, drained and shredded
Or: 2 hot dogs, cooked and sliced in flat buttons
100 gr (1/2 cup) slab of regular deli ham, diced
100 gr (1/2 cup) Fontina or Swiss cheese, diced
50 gr (1/4 cup) black olives, pitted and sliced
1 dill pickle, diced
2 ripe, peeled, seeded tomatoes, diced (optional)
50 gr (1/4 cup) artichoke hearts in oil, diced (optional)
1-2 tablespoons cooked peas (optional)
1/2 yellow bell pepper, minced
2 hard-boiled eggs, sliced or quartered (optional)
1 tablespoon capers (optional)
1 tablespoon fresh basil, minced
50 gr (1/4 cup) olive oil or light mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt & pepper to taste

Cook the rice in lots of boiling, slightly salted water. Rinse it with cold water, drain and let it cool off. Meanwhile, assemble the remaining ingredients. Once the rice has cooled, combine all the chopped ingredients, rice and dressing in a large serving bowl, and chill the salad in the refrigerator.

My favorite variation is a posh rice salad made with rice, smoked salmon slivers, 2 types of caviar (red and gray) and steamed, shelled baby scampi. I toss everything with a bit of mayo and chill before serving. It's very good.

19 comments:

  1. adoro questa insalatina, mi ricorda l´estate e i pranzi preparati prima di scendere al mare! bacione

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  2. I must make this - to celebrate that it is spring - somewhere in the world. And oh my - do love the posh version.

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  3. Your last statement, the variation, is definitely a great way to wow your guests.

    p.s. we spring ahead, setting the clock an hour ahead. Is that what you do too?

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  4. Spring. Yeah, right. All of our snow has finally melted, after the most hideous winter I can remember, and now I hear that we are due for another FOOT of snow this Friday. I shall attempt to remain huddled inside with many warm and lovely treats to eat, perhaps with yours on the table. Looks delicious!

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  5. Yes definitely Spring is in the air and oh so welcome. Rice and tuna is a combination I have always enjoyed, so I like the sound of this recipe.

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  6. Colores~
    Si, tipico da spiaggia!

    Claudia~
    Yes, the posh version is over the top.

    Rosaria~
    Spring forward, fall back–right! I did it right on my clocks, but wrote it wrong! Thanks for setting me straight.

    Jim~
    Oh, no! More snow?! Planet's rebelling.

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  7. Ooh! This one is a keeper!

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  8. Linda~
    It's a nice match, vero?

    Jeff~
    Happy you enjoy.

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  9. Louciao~
    Lazy bones–no thumbnail photo pun intended ;)

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  10. no spring here... slowly and very slowly we are slipping into autumn

    xx

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  11. Wonderful! It was 90 degrees here today in Los Angeles. Before I even saw this in my email I had thrown together a rice salad for lunch. Mine was just with stuff I had: day-old brown rice, avocado, cherry tomatoes, artichoke hearts and thinly sliced red onion. Olive oil and lemon as a dressing. Then I fried two eggs til the yolk was solid and ate it on the side. Now I can't wait to try your version!! Much classier than mine. Thank you!

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  12. Robyn~
    Ciao my southern hemisphere-sister.

    Joe~
    Sounds like a damn fine meal! I miss the ease with which Californians can access avocado. It's not a given, here. Plus they are never ripe enough...

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  13. Mmm, yes, avocado. I try to have a couple in my kitchen all the time. I just put lime juice and black pepper on a half and spoon it out. Also great on that most American thing: a hamburger!

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  14. Jeff-
    I LOOOOVE avo on burgers, a great flavor contrast. See you soon...

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  15. Mmmm, I love rice salad and like to make it in summer as a light lunch. Actually very similar to yours. I also make a rice coleslaw using rice, shredded cabbage, corn, capsicum, carrots and spring onions as a side salad for a BBQ. It always is appreciated.
    Grazie che mia hai contato della tua mamma come mangiava le friselle nel'acqua di mare. Daveramente era pulita a quel tempo. E` quello che mi piace avere un blog - fare la conoscenza di amici da lontano. Spero che ho scritto abbastanza bene per Italiano!

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  16. Marcellina~
    Grazie del tuo commento, scrivi benissimo in Italiano!
    I'm going to try your rice coleslaw, it sounds delicious!

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  17. What a great idea...rice instead of pasta. Love the mix.

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  18. Theresa~
    It's a nice alternative. Glad you like it!

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