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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Broccoli Rice Salad

I spent part of a summer in France many, many moons ago, and to be expected, my culinary world was transformed by the exposure to French foods and French cooks.  However, not so expectedly, my favorite foods from this trip are the French gastronomic equivalents of PB&J (which they do NOT have in France)...ham and butter sandwiches, grilled sausage served in split baguettes instead of hot dog buns, salads made of a single perfectly ripe and lightly dressed vegetable, fresh-picked plums (oh the plums!), and rice salads. 

I was one of about a dozen volunteers, both French and de l'├ętranger , and we took it in turns to cook for the group.  Several times we had salads composed of rice mixed with leftover meats, black olives, chopped fresh onion and peppers, summer corn, and just about anything else that needed using up.  Like I said, it's not fancy food, but it was revelatory for me.  I had no idea leftovers could be, well, delicious!  It holds at room temperature very well, too, so it's an excellent potluck/pitch-in/picnic dish.

The transition between the tough, outer
layers and the tender, light green "meat"
is clearly delineated.
As implied, you can make a rice salad out of just about anything on hand.  A few cups of rice (even that can be a leftover), a couple cups of cooked chicken, beef, pork, canned tuna, salmon mixed with a couple cups of vegetables (fresh or leftover), any herbs that are handy, some olives or pimiento and a little bit of salad dressing is all you need. 

The following salad uses up raw broccoli stems and is a vegetarian/vegan (depending on the exact ingredients of your salad dressing) dish.  To peel the broccoli, cut the bottom inch or so of stem off.  Stand the stem on its "floret" end (after removing the florets for another use), and use a knife to slice the woody peel away.  Then shred the broccoli using a food processor or hand grater. 

Broccoli Rice Salad
Makes 4 servings

2 cups cooked rice (or 1 "ready rice" packet)
1 bunch broccoli stems, peeled and grated
1 medium carrot, grated
1 20 oz. jar mandarin orange slices, drained
1/2 cup sunflower kernels
1/2 cup ginger-sesame dressing

Stir ingredients together thoroughly.  Serve at room temperature.
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