This recipe—a creamy black rice & quinoa spring salad with peas—is similar to last week’s lentil dip in that it was unplanned. This is the advantage of being less organized than usual with meal planning: you don’t have a plan and you don’t have as much prepared food in the fridge as you might like, but you do come up with a lot of spur-of-the-moment creations. And at least some of those are bound to be happy surprises.
Some time ago, the folks at Rebirth Rice offered to send me some samples of their heirloom black rice. I gladly accepted. I don’t make black rice often, but I was super impressed with the rice’s rich and nutty flavor, and I was excited to keep playing around with it.
This week, in an ongoing effort to keep using up everything in my pantry, I got to thinking about a grain salad or pilaf I could make with the rice. I did a little Googling for inspiration, and I found this recipe on Epicurious. I haven’t been making a lot of grain dishes with two grains lately—time is short enough that cooking grains separately and then throwing them together feels like a needless extra step. At the same time, I know how rewarding it can be to combine two grains for texture contrast, and the pairing of fluffy quinoa and chew rice sounded pretty great.
I went for it, and this is what I came up with. I added two of my favorite spring veggies, green peas and radishes, along with sliced carrots because I had some that needed using. That pantry-clearing project has also encouraged me to use up nuts and seeds before they’re past prime (hence pumpkin seeds in last week’s dip), so I decided to make a creamy, nut based dressing in place of a vinaigrette. I used cashews, but walnuts, pine nuts, or sunflower seeds will work, too. I’ve always liked light, sherry vinaigrettes and dressings with spring produce, so I kept to that theme.
The result? A dish that’s full of texture, pretty to look at, and nutritious. I initially served it with sautéed greens, but I used up the leftovers by the scoop in bowls, pairing them with baked tofu, adzuki beans, and more. This would be a nice side dish for this time of year, or the base of a meal if you help yourself to a nice portion.
For the salad:
- 1 cup uncooked black rice
- 3/4 cup uncooked quinoa rinsed through a fine sieve
- 1 cup fresh or frozen and thawed green peas
- 1 cup thinly sliced radish pieces
- 1 cup thinly sliced carrots
- 1/2 cup finely chopped parsley cilantro, or dill (optional)
For the dressing:
- 1/4 cup raw cashews soaked for at least 2 hours and drained (you can also use raw walnuts or sunflower seeds)
- 1 tablespoon chopped shallot
- 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup or agave optional
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Pinch freshly ground black pepper
Cook the rice and quinoa (separately) according to package instructions. While the quinoa is in the last 3 minutes of cooking, add the peas to the pot and re-cover, so that they steam while the quinoa finishes cooking.
While the grains cook, blend all dressing ingredients together till smooth. The dressing should be creamy but pourable; if it’s too thick, add an extra tablespoon or two of water to thin it out.
Fluff the grains and allow them to cool for 10 minutes. Transfer the grains and peas to a large mixing bowl and add the carrots and radish, along with fresh herbs if you like. Pour the dressing over and mix everything well. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed, along with an extra splash of vinegar if desired. Serve.
I added herbs to the recipe because I’m nearly positive they’d be a lovely addition, though in fairness my fridge wasn’t well-stocked enough for me to include any of my own. Next time, dill.
This was definitely a reminder that sometimes one little, extra step—like combining two whole grains instead of one—can make a dish that much better and more rewarding. I’m happy to have tried something new, even though my culinary inspiration has been pretty low. And if you try it, hope you’ll be happy with it, too.
“See you” on Sunday!