… Flavors of Spring and Summer While There’s Still Snow on the Ground!
This recipe ignites sparks of spring and summer with the fresh and bold flavors of zesty lemon and earthy, bold kale. The perfect chew of chilled, cooked black rice creates a light and refreshing, still very nutritious and satisfying, summer salad. While I realize it is not even spring yet, the days are getting longer and the sun is crossing the sky at a higher angle, making me yearn for the warmer days to come. I think this salad has kind of a yin and yang thing going on, both with color and flavor, that makes me say “yes” to savoring it any time of year.
Kale can be overpowering in flavor and texture to some people (I happen to really enjoy the boldness of both). Giving it a quick submerging in salted, boiling water, then shocking it with an ice bath to halt the cooking process, both of these characteristics become more subtle, but still allow for a mild crispness and a “fresh greens” taste.
If you’ve never used black rice in recipes, I suggest you give it a try. It is fairly new to my pantry, and I’m really enjoying the change it offers. Black rice, also referred to as Emperor’s Rice, is a short grain rice, or smaller grain rice, and is extremely versatile and easily immersed into many recipes. Black rice, which becomes a beautiful deep purple when cooked, is rich with antioxidants (showing beneficial against heart disease and some cancers), vitamin E, protein and fiber. A single serving, 1/4 cup dry, contains 5 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber. The flavor is mild and slightly sweet. I find it much less earthy than wild rice, which is wonderful in its own right, and lends itself very deliciously to this particular recipe.
So, we have the freshness of the kale with the chew and subtle sweetness of the black rice. Now let’s add some tart dried cherries, raisins, and a little crunch of cashews. A light dressing of mild-flavored grapeseed oil mixed with fresh lemon juice tang, then an additional “brightness” from fresh lemon zest, and the flavors are bursting in all directions on my tastebuds. Wow, I dare you not to conjure up one of summer’s best images.
P.S. Because this recipe is naturally vegetarian, it also makes a perfect dish for meatless Fridays during Lent.
Gluten-free, Dairy-free Black Rice Lemon Kale Salad
Cooking time: none if your rice is precooked; about 45 minutes if not.
Makes about 4 servings.
about 12 cups water, divided into two equal portions (roughly)
1/8 teaspoon salt
about 10 ice cubes
3-4 cups fresh kale, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups cooked black rice – I use Nature’s Earthly Choice Black Rice
1/4 cup cashews, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup dried cherries
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/8 cup grapeseed oil
fresh lemon juice from 1/2 lemon
zest of 1 lemon
salt and pepper, to taste
Combine half the water and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a medium sauce pot, then bring to a boil. The salt will keep the kale a bright green color.
Prepare an ice bath by filling a bowl, large enough to immerse the cooked kale, with the remaining water and the ice cubes.
Place the kale in the boiling water and let cook about 2 to 2 1/2 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon and immediately place kale into ice bath to halt the cooking process. Swish the kale in the chilled water about a minute, or until cool to the touch.
Drain the kale and pat dry with paper towels. You could use a salad spinner, but much of the kale may be chopped small enough to pass through the slotted basket.
Combine cooked kale, black rice, cashews, cherries, and raisins in a salad bowl. Toss well.
Whisk together grapeseed and lemon juice in a small measuring cup or bowl until well blended. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Whisk well again.
Drizzle some of the oil and lemon salad dressing over the salad, coating to your preference. Toss well and add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve with freshly zested lemon peel sprinkled over the salad, or chill in a sealed container in the fridge until ready to use.
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