I grew up in a household where rice was boiled just like pasta, so this preparation felt familiar. The salad is chunky, crunchy and soft, and can be served warm or at room temperature. It's not heavily dressed, with nice color and crunch. If you have pickled onions on hand, you might wish to use them instead of the thinly sliced raw onion. I'm not a raisin person, so I also substituted chopped dried figs; fresh figs would be even better, I suspect.
By the way, the recipe is from a lovely new Phaidon book, which contains information about planting and seasonal availability and brief profiles of the major vegetables that come to glory within each season. Dishes are simple and beautifully photographed. You might want to put this on your cookbook gift list for 2011.
If you’re serving this to omnivores as well as vegetarians, tuck a few pieces of rolled Westphalian or Iberico ham on appropriate plates. For those same omnivores, leftovers would be great with chunks of roasted turkey breast tossed in.
- 3 tablespoons golden raisins (may substitute fresh or soft dried figs, chopped)
- 1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice
- 1 large fennel bulb
- Leaves from 4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
- A handful of basil leaves
- 1 small sweet onion (may substitute 1/2 cup thinly sliced pickled onions)
- 1 cup (about 13) seedless black grapes
- 1 large seedless cucumber
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar (may substitute regular balsamic vinegar)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat.
Boil a quarter-kettle of water; place the raisins, if using, in a small bowl and cover with the just-boiled kettle water. Let soak for about 10 minutes.
Add a generous pinch of salt to the pot, then the rice; cook for 12 to 14 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender.
While the rice is cooking, prep the vegetables, fruit and herbs, placing the fennel, onion and grapes in the same large serving bowl as you work: Core the fennel and discard the tough outer layer. Cut the fennel into very thin slices to yield at least 2 1/3 cups. Finely chop the parsley and basil (you can do them together) to yield about 5 tablespoons; place the herbs in a liquid measuring cup.
Cut the onion into thin slices. Cut each of the grapes in half, to yield at least 2/3 cup. Peel the cucumber(s), if desired; trim the ends, then cut into very thin slices to yield at least 2 cups. Add them to the bowl.
Drain the rice in a colander and rinse under cool running water; drain well, then add to the bowl and toss to incorporate. Drain the raisins, and scatter the raisins in the bowl.
Whisk together the oil and vinegar in the cup with the parsley and basil, to form an emulsified dressing. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour evenly over the salad, then add the walnuts. Toss gently to incorporate. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as needed.
Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.
Adapted from “Vegetables From an Italian Garden: Season by Season Recipes” (Phaidon, June 2011).
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
Email questions to the Food Section at email@example.com.