Seasonal Chef Does Healthy Grains

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By Janeen A. Sarlin

Rice and grains are a healthy alternative to classic summer side-dish favorites.

Rice is cholesterol-free and gluten-free and an excellent source of complex carbohydrates. In this recipe the black sticky rice is also rich in nutrients. Plus it’s a very attractive dish with bright green, vitamin-rich sugar snap peas and avocado. It’s especially delicious with grilled salmon or shrimp.

Quinoa is a “super grain” that contains more protein than most, and it’s lower in carbohydrates (among other good qualities) than any other grain. I like the taste of quinoa, especially after it’s been cooked with good quality chicken or vegetable stock. In addition to being a great side, this recipe also makes for a perfect dish to serve as a main course to vegetarian guests.

Bon healthy appétit!

Black Sticky Rice Salad With Sugar Snap Peas And Avocado

(Serves 6)

2 cups black sticky rice (Chinese or Thai), soaked in cold water and rinsed

4 cups good quality chicken stock

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 large shallots, minced

1 fresh serrano chile, minced (remove seeds if too spicy)

3 limes, freshly squeezed, about 3 tablespoons

2 tablespoons seasoned rice wine vinegar

1 tablespoon Thai fish sauce

Sea salt, to taste

5 ounces sugar snap peas, strung and blanched

2 firm-ripe avocados, halved, pitted and peeled

1/4 to 1/3 cup chopped fresh mint

2 limes, cut into wedges

Optional: 1/4 cup chopped cilantro

To prepare:

Place rice in a bowl and fill it with cold water, to cover.

Let stand about 30 minutes.

Wash the rice with your fingers to release excess starch, then pour off the water.

Repeat about three more times until the water becomes clear.

Drain well and transfer to a heavy saucepan.

Add chicken stock and bring to a boil over high heat.

Cover, reduce the heat to low and cook until the rice is tender, but still intact, about 30 to 35 minutes.

Remove from the heat and let stand, uncovered, until cooled to room temperature.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a skillet over moderate heat.

Add shallots and sauté until translucent, about 2 minutes.

Stir in chile pepper and cook about 1 minute.

Remove from heat.

Whisk lime juice, vinegar and fish sauce with salt in a large bowl.

Remove the rice gently from the pan with a wet rubber scraper or spoon.

Transfer rice to the bowl with the dressing, then add shallots and toss to mix well.

Let stand at room temperature up to an hour to allow the flavors to blend.

Just before serving, cut sugar snap peas on diagonal and an avocado into half-inch dice, then gently stir that, with the spices, into the rice.

To serve, transfer to shallow serving bowl, using remaining avocado, herbs and lime wedges to garnish.

Mushroom Quinoa Salad With Scallions, Almonds And Bell Peppers

(Serves 6)

2 to 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

6 to 8 ounces mushrooms, washed and sliced

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

4 cups quinoa made with 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock, boiling

For the salad:

2 bunches scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 yellow bell pepper, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

2/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 bunch of flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped

20 basil leaves, cut into chiffonade

For the dressing:

1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, or more to taste

Fresh lemon juice, to taste

Optional: 1/2 pint grape tomatoes, halved

To prepare:

Make the quinoa one day ahead.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Coat the bottom of a heavy casserole pan with olive oil and cook over moderate heat.

Add onion and sauté until soft and translucent.

Add mushrooms, raise the heat to high, season with salt and pepper and sauté until they squeak and give up their juices.

Add quinoa, with a bit more oil if necessary, and stir to coat.

Taste and adjust the seasonings.

Remove from heat and place a paper towel under the lid to capture moisture, then replace the lid. Bring to room temperature until assembly.

Fluff with a fork.

Chop scallions, dice bell peppers and chop herbs.

Stir vegetables, herbs and almonds into the quinoa with a fork.

Whisk together mustard, vinegar and olive oil.

Add just enough dressing to season the salad.

Taste and adjust the seasonings and add fresh lemon juice.

Can be made ahead and refrigerated up to 3 days beforehand.

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