Saturday, October 15, 2011

Salad of brown rice and cranberries with pecans.

I have a rather unhealthy relationship with bookshops. Whenever I enter one I leave with a book. It's becoming a rather expensive habit and my husband isn't a big fan either.
The last few times I let myself into a bookshop I have come out with new cookbooks. My husband isn't a big fan of that too.
To my defense I immediately adjust my weekly meal plan to incorporate my new finds.

The following recipe comes from the second book of Roald Dahl's granddaughter Sophie. I always love when recipes have a seasonal approach even if I ignore that as this salad is in the section "Winter Lunches" and by all means, winter is still far away.
I landed on this recipe when I looked for side dishes for a dinner we hosted this past week. I wanted something grain-y without just serving plain rice, I wanted a salad without the standard mixed greens with tomatoes and cucumbers.
This salad has different grains, raw cabbage (like a slaw! We could pretend it's still mid-summer!), dried fruits and nuts. And I didn't try it or even taste it until it was on the table and our guests helped themselves to seconds.
I can't really say why I didn't try it. There is no logic here. Except, maybe, I was weary about all the ingredients together. I love them separately but I wasn't sure how sweet cranberries work in a savory dish.  Turns out: This one is a keeper.

It's crunchy from the nuts and the cabbage, the vinegar in the dressing works beautifully with the sweet cranberries and the grains give it some bite. It was so good I secretly eyed the plate I served it on hoping enough would be left for me to eat from it the next day. (There was!)

Don't let the following instructions put you off because of their lengths, it's actually really simple.

Salad of Brown rice, cranberries and pecans.

Salad of brown rice and cranberries with pecans
recipe adapted from Sophie Dahl's "From Season to Season"

The original recipe uses brown rice and pearl barley which I didn't have on hand when I wanted to make it, so I swapped in moghrabiah for the pearl barley the bigger cousin of couscous which is also referred to as "Israeli couscous" (sic!) but other grains should be fine too like millet or quinoa.

Although I loved the combination of ingredients I didn't like Sophie Dahl's approach to cooking all the grains together. Brown rice cooks for a good half an hour while moghrabiah is already done after under 20minutes.
So my biggest change is cooking the grains separately and then sautéing some of them with the onion and olive oil.
I also didn't add the whole amount of rice once it was all done and I started adding the ingredients together. It just seemed too much rice in relation to the rest. You can easily reheat leftover rice or half the amount used in the recipe. In the end, you should have 2 cups of cooked brown rice. (1 cup of uncooked brown rice makes about 5 cups cooked.)

I re-wrote the recipe the way I made it.
Except for omitting 1 stalk of celery (which is one of the few vegetables I just cannot stand) I didn't change anything about the ingredients used.

Serves 6 - 8

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
200 grams/1 cup brown rice, rinsed
200 grams/1 cup moghrabiah
1/2 a small red cabbage, finely shredded
a handful dried cranberries
a handful chopped parsley
a handful of toasted pecans (toast the pecans in a small dry frying pan for a few minutes) (Other nuts like walnuts or almonds would be nice too)

Dressing
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot peeled and finely chopped (MM: I used spring onions instead)
Salt and pepper to taste

Start by cooking the rice.
I have never been successful cooking brown rice into anything but mush but found this recipe which will now be my go to recipe forever and ever as it made perfect fluffy brown rice.
You will need at least 4 cups (I used 6) water for every cup of rice.
Rinse one cup of brown rice for about 30 seconds in a strainer. Meanwhile bring the water in a large pot to a boil. When the water boils, add the rice, stir it once. Turn the heat to medium and cook the rice, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.
When the 30 minutes are up, pour the rice into a strainer in the sink, let drain for 10 seconds, then add the rice back into the pot off the heat. Immediately cover the pot with a tight fitting lid and leave to steam for 10 minutes. After that, fluff the rice with a fork, season with salt and marvel that you just made perfect brown rice.
While the rice is cooking, also cook the moghrabiah. Follow the instructions on the package but basically it's like cooking pasta: Lots of water, some salt, cook until al dente (about 15 minutes), drain.

Heat the olive oil in a medium sized pan over medium heat, add the onion and sauté for a few minutes. Add the moghrabiah and continue to cook for about 5 minutes.

When the grains are cooked and have cooled to room temperature, add them to a large bowl. Add the cabbage, cranberries, parsley and the cooled pecans.

Mix the dressing in a small bowl and pour it over the salad.
Serve.

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