I started making this salad so long ago I don’t remember how it came about. I’ve always loved Middle Eastern food since the late 50’s when my parents would take me to the El Morocco overlooking the glamorous city of Worcester. It looks glamorous at night. This was before they built the new, huge restaurant that never had the intimacy or great food of the original. Or the late night jazz.

I usually make this salad with white basmati, cooked and cooled first, before adding other ingredients. If you don’t have time to cool the rice, at least spread it out thinly in a large bowl so it can cool while you chop. Otherwise expect a gluey outcome.

This salad was for Easter, when friends and relatives come to my house, as they do for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the 4th of July, my daughter’s birthday. We celebrate it even when she’s not here, it’s hard to change traditions when everyone already has them inked into their calendars. I skipped out on the 4th a couple of years back, and my husband said he was accosted by one person who said “But what are we gonna doooo?” As the weather had been cold and dreary, I decided the day before to make the salad with Lundberg’s wild and brown rice mix. Of course Easter was hot and sunny.

Basmati Rice Salad with Fresh Herbs and Feta

1 C white basmati rice, cooked and cooled, either in the saucepan overnight or spread into a large bowl to cool while you chop up the ingredients.
1 2/3 C water
1/2 t salt

I recently learned to rinse basmati rice before you cook it, releasing much of the starch that makes it gluey. Put the rice into an empty saucepan, and fill it with cool water, stirring it around with your fingers. You’ll see the water get cloudy, carefully pour most of it out, and do this 2 more times. The last time drain out as much water as you can without dumping the rice down the sink. Then add 1 2/3 C water, the salt, bring it to a boil, lower the heat, and time for 10 – 15 minutes, until you can tilt the pan and see that there’s no water left.

If you’re using brown basmati or the wild-brown mixture, don’t bother with the rinsing, but use 2 C water as it takes longer to cook, 30 -35 minutes.

1 bunch scallions, sliced
1 bunch fresh mint, washed, leaves taken off, chopped
1 bunch parsley, washed, large stems discarded, chopped
1/2 lb feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 C toasted pine nuts

Wash all greens in a large bowlful of water, swishing mightily. The local mint here always seems to be full of fine sand. Slice the scallions thinly, eliminating the roots and withered green tips. Chop up the parsley and mint, eliminating most of the stems.

Toast the pine nuts, either in a small frypan over medium heat, or in your toaster oven at 350. WATCH THEM CAREFULLY, if you’re stirring them in a frypan it’s easier to gauge their color as you stir, they should be brown, not dark brown. I’ve burned many a tray of pinenuts in the toaster oven, they seem to color in about 7-8 minutes, at 9 they’re toast. Stir them around at least once in the oven.

Crumble feta so you have some teaspoon-size chunks, some smaller.

Mix all ingredients into the rice. Make the dressing:

1/2 C olive oil
2-3 T lemon juice, a little over a half of a lemon
1/2 t salt

Whisk all together in a little bowl, pour over salad just before serving, unless you’re going on a picnic, then just go ahead. You’ll lose some of the acidity, but no one will notice.

The El Morocco served a green salad with a lemon-dried mint-olive oil dressing that I loved. I still make it once in awhile, using less of all the above ingredients as you don’t have the rice to soak up all that dressing. They made theirs rather salty, as I remember. I use less now.

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