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On the Road with a Rice and Asparagus (or Cucumber or Pea) Salad

May 29, 2012 | Tags: Deborah Madison , Food , Vegetables | Post comment

On the Road with a Rice and Asparagus (or Cucumber or Pea) Salad

I just came back from 10 days on the road from New Mexico to California for work, for family visits, and a long awaited drive through Yosemite. Once in the Bay Area, food was not a problem, but getting to and from was the usual nightmare, for there is nothing to eat, really, that you’d want to eat. Especially since much of the trip is through the empty desert —Mojave, Needles, Barstow, Kingman, Ludlow, Ash Fork—where there are only fast food chains, if that.

Having made this trip countless times, I’m prepared for the challenge, and I’ve ferreted out a few places to stop for a fairly decent meal, but mostly I rely on a cooler packed with better food than what the road offers. This trip, one of the items in the cooler was a salad of Black Rice with Asparagus (now towards the end of its season). Sometimes I add diced Persian cucumbers for the wet, cool, crunchiness, though more towards the last minute as it doesn’t hold up quite as well as the cooked asparagus.  Mange tout peas (such as snow peas) are another good option, and there’s no reason you can’t use all three vegetables.


Kept in a cooler, this salad holds up surprisingly well and can be a welcome alternative to some of the other choices out there. It’s not just road food, however. I also made it for Memorial Day party and leftovers will be my lunch for a few days to come. The black rice is chewy and delicious and holds up well, but you could also use brown rice, and even quinoa.


Asparagus with Black Rice or Wild Rice and Sesame Ginger Dressing
As good as asparagus is with olive oil and butter, it’s equally good with a dressing of sesame oil, orange peel, and finely grated ginger.  

Ingredients

The Rice and Asparagus
1 cup uncooked black rice (or use brown rice, wild rice, quinoa)
sea salt
1 pound asparagus, or more peeled if thick
slivered mint, about a tablespoon
2 tablespoons white sesame seeds, toasted

The Dressing
3 scallions or Egyptian onions, finely sliced crosswise, including some of the green
 finely grated zest of 1 large orange
4 tablespoon orange juice
2 tablespoons light sesame oil
1 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons soy sauce or tamari
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
½ teaspoon salt
A pinch of sugar

Preparation

Cook the black rice in 2 cups water with a pinch of salt.  Cover the pan and simmer for 25 minute. Take a taste and if it’s not quite done, let it cook 5 minutes more, then turn off the heat and let it sit until you’re ready to dress it. (It’s best dressed warm.)

While the rice is cooking make the dressing by combining all the ingredients in a jar and shaking them well.  To prepare the asparagus, snap or cut off the tough ends of the asparagus and discard them.  Peel the thicker stalks, trim their bottoms, then slice them diagonally about ¼-inch thick up to the tips. Bring a skillet of water to a boil, add a few pinches of salt, and simmer until the asparagus is bright green and tender-firm, 3 to 4 minutes. Taste as they cook to make sure. Scoop them out and set them on a towel to dry briefly.

Drain the rice of any excess water, then toss it with the asparagus, the sesame seeds, mint and dressing. Taste for salt. Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled. If you wish, quarter a Persian cucumber, slice into ½-inch chunks, and scatter them over the surface before serving. One can also add the peas (steamed or sauteed) at this point as well.

For 4 to 6 main dish servings

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