Rice salad is an old idea, but for some reason it’s taken me a long time to embrace it. I’m so glad I have! It’s the perfect side dish to go with pretty much any entrée. The premise: toss cooked and cooled rice with vinaigrette and some herbs and serve at room temperature. As with a green salad, the flavor and texture combinations are endless. This one in particular gets a rich sweetness from roasted grapes and a nutty crunch from toasted almonds.
- 2 C. long grain rice such as basmati
- 4 C. water
- 2 C. red grapes
- 1/4 C. olive oil, divided
- 1/2 C. slivered, blanched almonds
- 1 large lemon
- salt and pepper
- 1 C. loosely packed fresh mint leaves
- 1 C. loosely packed fresh parsley leaves
Rinse the rice under cold water and place in a pot with the 4 C. of water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes. Remove the pot from heat and let the rice steam, covered for about ten minutes. When the rice is done, fluff with a fork and transfer it to a large bowl to cool.
While the rice is cooking, roast the grapes and toast the almonds. Place the grapes on a rimmed baking sheet and toss with 1 t. of the olive oil. Roast at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until they are just beginning to split and bubble. Remove from the oven and toss them in with the rice to cool. Toast the almonds in a dry pan on the stove or on a clean rimmed baking sheet at 350 degrees for about five minutes. Watch them carefully- they will go from brown to black in a matter of seconds. Remove them from the heat when they are just beginning to become a rich golden brown. Once you’ve toasted almonds a few times you get to know when they are done by the smell of them!
To assemble the dish, combine the cooled rice, grapes, almonds, and herbs in a large bowl. Toss gently, you don’t want the rice to clump. Drizzle the rest of the olive oil and squeeze the lemon juice over the rice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss well to combine. You can garnish with a few extra herbs on top. Serve at room temperature.