Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes, one ingredient at a time.
Fifteen million Americans have a food allergy.
— Food Allergy Research and Education Association
I found this shocking statistic on the website for Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE). According to FARE food allergies affect 1 in 13 children—roughly two in each classroom. Although no one in my immediate family has a food allergy, but Denise, one of my dearest friends who lives at the end of the road, is troubled by a number of food sensitivities and allergies.
Denise and I share a love of gardening, eating, decorating, eating, movies, and did I mention eating? We are foodies for sure, but she has food allergies that get in the way at times. Wheat and gluten are not her friends. Digesting raw spinach or lettuce is also a bit of a problem, and she's allergic to anything in the potato/tomato family.
In a few days, a mutual friend will be driving up from Portland to spend the weekend. We'll be having lunch together on Saturday, and I've been asked to make a main dish salad. But what can I bring?
- Potato salad? No.
- Green salad with tomatoes? Absolutely not!
- Pasta salad is out too. What to do?
Well, rice will work. So I thought about how to coax that into a main dish salad. The first consideration is what type of rice to use—wild rice, white rice, or brown? Did you know that wild rice is actually not a rice at all—it is actually the seed from a marsh grass. Many people enjoy wild rice because of its nutty flavor and crunch, but it does not absorb flavors as readily as true rice grains. White rice certainly provides a "blank canvass" on which to build flavors, but can tend to get soggy when used in a cold salad. I like the slightly nutty taste and texture of brown rice, so that was my choice.
I also love contrasts—crisp and creamy, sweet and savory, etc. I chose mango for its sweet flavor and its hint of tartness. Celery provides a bit of crispness, and cashews are sweet, salty, and crunchy.
My next consideration was what type of protein to add to the rice to make this a main dish meal. For ease of preparation, I bought a pre-cooked, oven-roasted turkey breast. Leftover chicken could also be used. If you want a vegetarian meal, I would suggest tofu. To prepare tofu for this recipe you should:
- Remove the tofu from its packaging.
- Slice it horizontally.
- Place each slice, sandwiched between several thicknesses of paper towel, on a cake cooling rack.
- Place a weight (a large sauté pan will do) on top of the tofu and let sit for about 30 minutes to remove the excess water.
- Cut the squeezed tofu into bite-size cubes. Toss with a tablespoon of olive oil and either sauté briefly over medium-high heat or bake in a 400-degree oven for about 10 minutes.
|Prep time||Ready in||Yields|
4 to 6 generous servings
- 12-oz pkg frozen brown rice, thawed (or about 2 1/4 cups cooked brown rice)
- 1 cup cooked turkey breast, diced (you could use chicken)
- 2 tablespoons green onion (scallion), minced
- 1 medium mango, peeled, pitted and diced (about 1 cup prepared)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon + 1 tsp. white balsamic vinegar, (or other mild vinegar such as apple cider or rice wine)
- 1/4 cup cashews, chopped
- 1/2 cup gorgonzola cheese (optional)
- Cook the rice according to the instructions on the package. Pour it into a large bowl and allow it to cool while you prepare the other ingredients
- Dice the turkey and mince the scallions. Prepare and finely dice the mango. Place each of these in the large bowl with the brown rice.
- Whisk together the olive oil and balsamic. Add salt and pepper to taste and drizzle over the brown rice/turkey mixture. Toss gently.
- If making ahead of time, cover and store in the refrigerator for up to one day.
- Just before serving, stir in the cashews. Top with cheese if desired. I like Gorgonzola, but another salty-crumbly cheese (such as feta) could also be used.
Substitutions and Alternatives
With the change of just a few ingredients, this salad could take on a totally different taste and appearance. Instead of mango, cashews, and gorgonzola, you might try sun-dried tomatoes, briny black olives, and shaved pecorino Romano cheese. You could also go with cucumber, garbanzo beans, and feta cheese.
© 2013 Linda Lum