Who doesn't love rice? It's one of the most loved and widely consumed grains in many parts of the world. It is especially popular in Asia, from where it originates and is still grown today. There are many different varieties of rice, but long-grain white rice is the best known. It has had the chaff, bran, and germ removed, leaving only the endosperm. Brown rice has had only the husk removed, keeping intact the nutritious parts: the fibrous bran and mineral-packed germ. Brown rice used to be considered low class, but the tables eventually turned and brown rice gained popularity especially in health-food circles.
You don't have to be a health nut to like and eat brown rice. Yes, it is healthier, but also more flavorful, almost nutty, and it has a chewier texture. The only downfall is that it can go rancid just like nuts. So it's best to eat it fast or keep it in a cool pantry, refrigerator, or even freezer. There are two methods to cooking rice in general. One is to cook it in double the amount of water, which it absorbs once it's done. The second method is to add it to four times the amount of boiling water, like cooking pasta. For brown rice, I use the second method, called rapid-boil. It ensures the rice kernels do not stick together, which is exactly what you want for this rice salad.
Instead of the usual side dish of rice, I wanted to create a healthy and fun Asian-inspired salad using brown rice. To the rice I add, carrots for sweetness and crunch, mushrooms to act like sponges and absorb the dressing, and cilantro for its characteristic peppery flavor. Peanuts and sesame seeds add more texture and nutty flavor. The brightly flavored dressing is one of my favorites: The sesame seed oil and grated ginger are the predominant flavors. Eat the salad just as it is for dinner or work lunch the next day. If you crave meat, add some shredded cooked chicken breast. Or serve the salad warm, topped with a fried egg for breakfast or brunch. There are so many ways to enjoy this brown rice salad.
Brown Rice Salad with Carrots, Peanuts, and Sesame-Ginger Dressing
for the salad:
1 cup long-grain brown rice, rinsed
1 large carrot, grated
6 cremini mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup coarsely chopped peanuts, plus more for garnish
1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds, plus more for garnish
for the dressing:
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon grated ginger (1/2-inch piece)
1 garlic clove, grated
freshly ground black pepper
In a medium saucepan, bring 4 cups salted water to a boil. Add rice and cook, covered, at a low simmer until tender, about 35 to 40 minutes. Drain rice into a sieve and rinse under cold water. Add to a large bowl. Add carrot, mushrooms, peanuts, cilantro, and sesame seeds. Toss to combine.
To make the dressing, in a small bowl, whisk together canola and sesame oils, vinegar, soy sauce, lime juice, ginger, and garlic. Season with pepper. Pour over rice, tossing to combine. Garnish with additional peanuts, cilantro, and sesame seeds. Serve at room temperature or chilled. Yield: 4 to 6 servings.