WHAT’S IN YOUR FRIDGE?

Cookery is not chemistry.  It is an art.  It requires instinct and taste
rather than exact measurements.
~ Marcel Boulestin (1878-1943)

TODAY’S PREPARATION

I wandered into the kitchen to see what trouble I could get into, and discovered the forbidden rice I’d cooked yesterday in anticipation of doing something interesting with it.  I knew that I wanted a colorful concoction:  a dazzling dish of Crayola-colored food set off by the deep black of the rice.  Today was the day.

CULTIVATING SKILLS & INSTINCTS
Instinct in food preparation is something that can be developed through practice.  Forbidden Rice Salad (with or without chicken) is a fun thing to concoct at a moment’s notice, provided you have a few things on hand (always a good practice).

I’m going to tell you how to put something together without giving you any specific quantities like cups or teaspoons.  Part of learning to cook is experimenting and learning to trust your instincts.  Join me in putting together a serving of rice salad.  Think in terms of handfuls:  a handful of cooked rice, a handful of leftover chicken and everything else to taste.  Many things you have in your refrigerator you can add to this versatile preparation.

Now, black rice may be a tough sell to small children, so I would suggest you brand it early on as an adult salad.  Teenagers, however are another matter; as they get closer to adulthood, they begin to embrace more and more variety in what they like to eat.  Black rice, hmmm.  Rather goth, don’t you think?  If you called it Forbidden Rice of the Goths, might they be more interested?

Gazing deep into the recesses of my refrigerator, I found some leftover chicken that was a little past its prime.  Opening the container and taking a deep inhaling breath upon opening the container, my nose told me that I was within the time limit for using it.  But since it was less than the freshest, I thought it could use some help.

Balsamic vinegar to the rescue!  Balsamic is the most robust of vinegars, so I urge to you have it in your pantry.  Because the flavor is so strong, it has powers of cover-up that come in handy when we’re not always on top of first-in-first/out food management.  Combined with olive oil it makes a quick-as-a-wink vinaigrette salad dressing as discussed on January 17th, Salad Update.

This dish needs no dried herbs, although I do add fresh cilantro.  You can whip it up in five minutes, assuming you have the rice cooked.  You can use regular white rice, but the balsamic vinegar would turn it brown and, well, it won’t look as appetizing as you might want.  Forbidden rice is just the thing.  It cooks just like white rice, and has a little more tooth to it.  I prefer it over brown rice because it has good kernel separation, an important characteristic in rice salads.  If you really want to use white rice, I suggest basmati, and you can use the simple vinaigrette dressing described in January 7th’s post Salad Manifesto.  You can make this salad with or without chicken.

From the freezer I pull edamame and some corn off the cob I’d frozen this past fall.  Pop one or both in a pot with a quarter inch of boiling water, stir and let steep for a minute, then drain in a colander and let cool.

Mix a little olive oil (3 parts) with Balsamic vinegar (1 part) in a small bowl; add some cut-up leftover chicken and toss.  Put the chicken in a second bowl.  Do it again with the oil and vinegar in the first bowl and add a serving the cold, cooked rice.  Toss the rice with the vinegar and oil and add to the second bowl.   Taste it.  If you want to add more vinegar and oil, be my guest; mix it together before adding for best results.

Now let’s see what we have in the crisper:  sweet red pepper, cilantro (but only if you love it), green onion, and, oh, look! the watermelon radish I’d picked up from the green market.  A few slices will give a spicy pink crunch. If you like, you can add a few golden raisins or dried cranberries.

Toss together and eat from the bowl or put on a bed of lettuce.

I had this for a very satisfying lunch with a sliced avocado and a hard-cooked egg.  Perfect for having at the workplace, and it will keep for a day or two because the vinegar is a preservative.

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