I first started making rice salads a few years ago after reading about the technique in one of Lidia Bastianich's cookbooks. Served at room temperature, they are a nice accompaniment to grilled meat or fish and are a great way to use up leftovers. Rice absorbs lots of flavors, yet the grains always seem to retain their distinct, chewy texture, even when coated with a vinaigrette. I mostly make rice salads in the summer. I often make them with tomatoes and fresh mozzarella or with fresh summer vegetables. But I thought that it might be fun to create a rice salad featuring winter vegetables. I love the flavor of radicchio. It seemed assertive enough to stand up to the olive and lemon flavors in this vinaigrette. The method of broiling it is inspired by a recipe created by NYC chef and cook book author Andrew Carmellini. Roasted peppers seemed to nicely compliment the radicchio. While grape tomatoes aren't a winter vegetable per se, I liked the fresh flavor that they added to this winter salad. Normally, I make rice salads with a lemon and olive oil vinaigrette or a red wine vinegar and olive oil dressing. I decided to try making a dressing using whole olives. I experimented with a few different varieties. Green Cerignola olives look the prettiest (the dressing was a lovely green-golden color), but I preferred the meaty flavor of black Nicoise olives. When I made the vinaigrette, I thought that regular lemons tasted just fine, but Meyer lemons had a more layered nuanced flavor.You could use a sharp firm Italian cheese, such as aged Provolone in this salad, but I liked the creamy texture and fruity flavor of Taleggio cheese. —cookinginvictoria
4 people as a side dish
For the Salad
Arborio or Carnaroli rice (or other Italian short or medium grain rice)
small onion (peeled but not chopped)
small head radicchio
extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
large bell peppers (I used a yellow and an orange one)
Taleggio cheese, diced
good quality olives (see headnote)
fresh parsley, roughly chopped
small grape tomatoes (quartered)
For the Vinaigrette
good quality green or black olives, pitted
shallots, roughly chopped
fresh parsley, roughly chopped
Meyer lemons (or regular lemons, if Meyers aren't available)
Make the vinaigrette. Add olives, shallots, parsley, and anchovy to blender. Zest the Meyer lemons or regular lemons and add zest to the blender. (You should have about 2 teaspoons zest.) Cut the lemons in half and juice them. If using a Meyer lemon, you should have about 4 tablespoons juice; if using a regular lemon, add only 2 tablespoons juice. Add about 1 tablespoon olive oil to blender, put cover on, and blend until ingredients are pureed. Drizzle the rest of the oil into the blender with the motor running. Taste and see if it needs salt or pepper. (Vinaigrette will keep for a couple of days in the refrigerator.)
Roast the peppers: Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Line a baking sheet with heavy duty aluminum foil. Place peppers on foil and put baking sheet in the oven. Roast peppers and keep checking on them, turning them occasionally, until all surfaces are blackened. This will take about 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven and place peppers in a bowl. Cover securely with plastic wrap until peppers are cool enough to handle (about 20 minutes). Take off plastic wrap, remove stems and seeds, and peel peppers. Chop into thin strips and set aside.
Cook the rice: In a large saucepan, add water, onion, 1 tablespoon salt, parsley sprigs, and rice. Bring to a boil, then immediately turn down the heat until water is at a lively simmer. Cook uncovered for about fifteen minutes. Taste a kernel. Rice should taste tender but firm and not mushy. Remove from heat, and drain rice. Spread rice out on baking sheet to cool.
Make radicchio: Set oven on broil setting. Core radicchio and slice into fourths. Coat with 1 tablespoon olive oil and salt and pepper. Place cut side down on small baking sheet. Broil for five minutes. Immediately turn heat down to 400 degrees and continue roasting for another 10 minutes. Radicchio will be darkened and look crispy. Remove from oven and let cool for about five minutes. Smear 1 teaspoon of olive vinaigrette on each wedge of radicchio. Cut into thick strips and set aside.
Assemble the salad: Put rice in large serving dish or platter. Add roasted peppers, radicchio, olives, parsley, and grape tomatoes. Mix gently to combine. Add vinaigrette to salad, a tablespoon at a time until grains of rice and vegetable are coated with vinaigrette. You don't want the vinaigrette pooling at the bottom of the dish, so be careful not to add too much. Taste and see if it is to your liking. Add freshly ground pepper and salt, if needed. Top with diced cheese and enjoy! (Salad can sit dressed for about a half an hour before serving, if needed.)
In 2009, after living more than twenty years in NYC, my husband, young daughter and I packed up our lives and embarked on a grand adventure, moving to Victoria, B.C. There are many things that we miss about New York (among them ripe, vine-ripened tomatoes, fresh ravioli and New York bagels), but, I have to admit, that living in the Pacific Northwest has been pretty amazing food-wise. Now we have a yard with plum and apple trees, a raspberry and strawberry patch and a Concord grape arbor. I have a vegetable and herb garden, so I can grow at least some of our food. And we have an amazing farmer's market a block from our house.
I love cooking (and eating) seasonally and locally. And it's been very rewarding introducing my daughter to cooking and eating, and teaching her where our food comes from.