This time of year, in order to starve off frozen fingers and frozen toes I drink my body weight in coffee, tea and hot chocolate. By the time I nighttime rolls around, I am pretty sick of hot beverages and want something entirely different to warm my bones. This may explain why I prefer hot soups in the summer, but that’s a different story. I lust after spring vegetables all winter long, but equally important are flavors bright enough to grab my attention, pucker my lips and say, “Ooh! What is that?” Yet another roasted root vegetable is simply not going to cut it.
Assorted, half-filled bags of rice fill the pantry shelves — castoffs from recipes tested and swiftly forgotten. And yet the rice bags remain, waiting to be cooked and fluffed into something edible. Plain rice, whatever the variety, mounded next to a serving of meat and vegetables seems incredibly ho-hum. (Although, if Ryan had his way this is exactly how we would eat rice everyday. We would also drown each grain in soy sauce but the snob in me has to draw the line somewhere.) Despite the depressing weather and the lackluster availability of produce I am determined not to let anything ho-hum come out of my home kitchen and rice was one of the first ingredients I wanted to tackle.
I chose a recipe from the a restaurant in the United Kingdom, a far away land with far more gray days per year than I could ever put up with. Ottolenghi’s answer to miserable weather? Mangoes. And basil, cilantro and mint. This mango and coconut rice salad has texture in spades — crunch from the roasted peanuts and red bell peppers and chewiness from the red rice. Lemon juice and zest paired with the sweet, sticky cubes of fresh mango liven up the salad’s color and acidity, while simultaneously balancing the mellowness of the rice. This dish is best served at room temperature or straight from the refrigerator and despite the nasty cold weather outside, it will trick your taste buds into thinking it is time to unfold your beach towel and apply some tanning oil (or in my case, a thick layer of SPF 90, but to each their own).
mango and coconut rice salad
adapted from Ottolenghi
yields 4 servings
1/2c jasmine or basmati rice
1 tsp unsalted butter
1/2c basil leaves (Thai basil, if you can find it), divided (1 large stem left whole, the rest of the leaves roughly chopped)
3/4c red rice
1 red pepper, cored and thinly sliced
1/4c mint leaves, roughly chopped
1/4c coriander leaves, roughly chopped
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 red chili, deseeded and finely chopped
1 lemon, zested and juiced
2 large mangoes, cut into a 2cm dice
1/3c roasted salted peanuts, roughly chopped
1/4c shredded, unsweetened coconut (if you have sweetened, use half this amount)
2T peanut or vegetable oil
1 large shallot, sliced and deep-fried (optional)
Put the jasmine rice and butter in a small saucepan and place over a medium heat. Add a generous pinch of salt, the water and half the Thai basil (keep the leaves attached to the stem), and bring to a boil. Cover and cook at a slow simmer for 15-20 minutes. Remove and discard the basil, then spread the rice on a tray to cool down.
Boil the red rice in plenty of water (just like cooking pasta, but with no salt) and simmer for 20 minutes, until cooked through. Drain and spread on a tray to cool down.
Add the cooked rice to a large bowl and all of the remaining ingredients other than the lemon juice and shallots, and mix. Do not stir too much or the mango will start to fall apart. Taste for seasonings and add lemon juice if necessary. Serve at room temperature and garnish with the deep-fried shallots, if you like.