Wednesday, November 18, 2009

the mark bittman minimalist club: do you like pina coladas?

I made this citrus rice salad because I'm leaving tomorrow to spend a couple of weeks at my mom's house in Florida. Why not wait to make it until I'm at my mom's, where I can pluck fresh citrus fruit from the trees in her backyard? Because I'm counting on the fact that once I arrive in Florida my mom will do all the cooking. Naw, I'm just kidding: My sister will probably help her out.

And maybe they will make this dish, which is from a column on rice salads Mark Bittman did last year (the piece also featured Indian, Japanese, and pad-thai-style rice salads). It's one of the recipes I was referring to earlier this week that could easily be either gruel de la semaine or a component of a meal that you might actually serve to other people. I think we all know which option I chose; see my serving suggestions after the recipe.

Citrus Rice Salad
from the New York Times

1½ to 2 cups any rice [I used 1 cup of uncooked long-grain, brown rice, which made ~2 cups of cooked rice.]
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed citrus juice, or more to taste (lemon, lime, orange, tangerine, grapefruit, or a combination [I acutally used all five])
2 tablespoons grated citrus zest
1 tablespoon sugar or honey [honey]
1 cup chopped citrus flesh (or whole segments, if small)
½ large red or mild white onion, minced [I minced half of a smallish red onion and didn't even use all of it; the raw onion could easily overpower the other flavors.]
½ cup chopped fresh mint
½ cup or more grated Parmesan [or not; see notes below]
chopped almonds or pecans, optional [pecans, definitely]

1. Cook rice in abundant salted water, as you would pasta, until it's just done; white rice will take 10 to 15 minutes, brown 30 or a little longer. Drain, rinse in cold water, drain again, then put in a large bowl. [I cooked the rice according to the directions on the package and didn't do all of the draining and rising at the end.]

2. Combine olive oil, citrus juice, zest, sugar or honey, salt and pepper in a blender and turn the machine on; a creamy emulsion will form within 30 seconds. Taste and add more citrus juice a teaspoon or two at a time until the balance tastes right to you.

3. Drizzle vinaigrette over rice [do this to taste; I didn't use it all]. Use 2 big forks to combine, fluffing rice and tossing gently to separate grains. Stir in citrus flesh, onion, and mint; taste, and adjust the seasoning or moisten with a little more dressing.

4. Serve, sprinkled with Parmesan and chopped nuts, at room temperature, or refrigerate for up to a day, bringing salad back to room temperature before serving. [See my serving suggestions, below.]

I, of course, made a batch of this on Sunday and ate it for lunch all week. But because variety is the spice of life, I tried it two ways. Sometimes I ate it as directed, with grated Parmesan. But on a couple of days I went rogue/tropical, skipped the Parmesan, and added avocado instead, which is about as exotic as things get around my house. Either way, this makes for a nice gruel de la semaine; the bright citrus flavors are perfect on a gray fall day, and both the Parmesan and avocado give the salad a richness that balances the tang.

As a component of a fancier meal this would serve quite nicely as a bed on which you could lay a piece of fish, which you could then top with an avocado salsa. This kind of bold nüfüsion cüisine will surely impress your friends. It would impress me, anyway, and we're friends. Right?

Citrus rice would also go well with the yachtsman's famoüs French Chicken in a Pot, if you eat those nasty birds (I'll try to get him to whip one up while we're in Florida so my mom can take the night off and I'll have something to bl*g about). And there's something a little risotto-ish about this dish (could be the rice, I guess)—it might be nice topped with shrimp, if you like pieces of fishy rubber for dinner.

Actually, the risotto idea is a good one; perhaps I'll ask my mom to make a citrus risotto with chunks of fresh fruit added at the end, plenty of Parm, possibly some asparagus, served sprinkled with pecans. And then I will hope that I'm not sent to my room without dinner.


  1. Fruit. In my dinner. Bah.

  2. This from the man who puts frozen peas in his smoothies.

  3. The frozen pea comment disturbs me.

    But based on your recipe above, I have changed my evening's plans to fit this into it: I will no longer be going to the gym and then studying hard, somehow fitting dinner into that equation. I am now going to do pilates at home while reading and then making this delectable and refreshing dish. And yes: I'm adding fishy rubber to mine! ;) I trust MeatMan will love it. Thanks, GFD!

  4. I think it's a sign: the first song I heard on my way to City Market was Rupert Holmes "Escape" - wish me luck!

  5. I don't know nothing about no Rupert Holmes or a song called escape. What I do know is that this recipe looks awesome. The other thing I know (because I only know two things) is that I will NOT be doing all the cooking while we are in Florida.

    Muzzer is going to have to do it. That's it and that's all.