It was therefore with a little more excitement than usual that I thought about what I wanted to cook for supper on Sunday. I decided to come up with some kind of salad to go with the chicken breasts we bought at the market the previous morning, and thought of a fantastic cold couscous salad that I had recently eaten at a family gathering. The only thing I could remember about it was that it had feta cheese in it, but that was enough to work with for inspiration. I swapped the couscous for brown rice, simply because I had a lot on hand. I’ve never eaten a cold rice salad, but I figured it would be a fine substitution.
While the rice was cooking away, I got started on the dressing. I decided to infuse my olive oil by warming it on the stove with some crushed garlic cloves.
Once the oil was a little bubbly over medium heat, I waited five minutes or so before straining the oil and setting it aside to cool. This little trick is a great way to get some flavour into your olive oil, and is cheaper than buying fancy little bottles of it from the grocery store.
At this point, the rice was done, and was also set aside. Cooling the rice takes quite a while, so it’s a good idea to get it cooked early (same goes for pasta in pasta salads). I started preparing the salad in the early afternoon, so that it would have time to develop its flavours and cool down for supper.
As for veggies, I chopped up what I had on hand: red and green bell peppers, some kalamata olives, and a red onion.
I love making my own dressing for salads, because it tastes so fresh and simple. To make an olive oil dressing, I combine three parts oil to one part acid, be it balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, or, in this case, fresh lemon juice. To get the oil and acid to combine, you need to add a binding agent; my favourite is whole grain mustard, but Dijon also works well. Then comes the fun part: whisking.
It doesn’t take very long for the mustard to work its magic, after which you have a beautiful, homogeneous dressing. Stir in a bit of salt and pepper, and you’re one happy foodie.
Once the rice was sufficiently cooled (enough not to melt any added cheese) I threw in all of the chopped veggies, a couple of handfuls of cubed feta cheese, and poured the dressing on top. I added freshly ground black pepper, just a bit of salt (because of the saltiness from the feta and olives), and some dried basil and oregano. Once everything was incorporated, the salad went back into the fridge to sit until dinnertime.
Creating a dish as you go along is pretty exciting, and rewarding when it turns out well. When I started, I had no idea how lemon, garlic, and feta would work together with rice in a cold salad, but it turned out to be just what I wanted, and the perfect dish with which to welcome the warmer weather. The lemon and garlic dressing gave the salad such an incredible, bright flavour, reminiscent of a Greek salad, and the uncooked veggies gave it a nice, crunchy texture. I’ll be making it again and again, I’m sure. Goodbye, winter!
Cold Brown Rice Salad With Lemon and Garlic: The Recipe
I can see this salad being a very versatile option for summer meals. Just throw in whatever you have hanging around in the fridge, and see what happens! I think it would be great to try with different dressings, as well.
This recipe makes a very large batch, enough for dinner and leftovers. It would be easy to halve if needed.
4 cups cooked brown rice
¾ cup olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice (approx. two lemons)
1 tsp whole grain mustard
salt and pepper, to taste
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
1-2 handfuls kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
2 handfuls cubed feta cheese
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
Cook rice and set aside to cool.
Heat olive oil and crushed garlic cloves over medium heat. Once bubbling, infuse for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, strain oil, let cool.
Whisk infused oil, fresh lemon juice, and mustard until combined. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Combine cooled rice, vegetables, olives, and feta cheese. Add dressing while stirring, until salad is coated to your liking. Add salt and pepper to taste, and basil and oregano.
Stir, and let sit in the fridge until cold. Enjoy.