SERVES 4 to 6 (VEG): To get the right texture for our brown rice salad, we boil the rice like pasta, then spread it on a baking sheet to cool rapidly
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS Nutty, pleasantly chewy brown rice works perfectly in an easy salad, but our favorite method for cooking brown rice—baking— wouldn’t work here. In an early test, we discovered that once it was cooled and drizzled with dressing, the baked rice turned gummy. Envisioning a hearty salad bursting with fresh Mediterranean flavors like creamy goat cheese, tender asparagus, and crunchy almonds, we cooked the rice by boiling it in a large pot of water, which washed away its excess starches. Then we spread it out on a baking sheet to cool rapidly, preventing it from overcooking as it sat. To give the rice some bright flavor, we drizzled it with lemon juice while it was still warm. We cooked a pound of asparagus, sliced into 1-inch pieces, in olive oil until it was browned and tender. We wanted the dressing to be zesty but simple, one that would highlight the rustic rice and bright asparagus, so we whisked together olive oil, minced shallot, and fresh lemon juice and zest. After dressing the rice, we stirred in the sliced asparagus and some crumbled goat cheese and let the dressing’s flavors seep into the salad before serving. With a sprinkling of toasted almonds, more goat cheese, and parsley, our salad was loaded with fresh, vibrant flavors, tender rice, and plenty of crunch. Look for asparagus spears no thicker than ½ inch.
- 1½ cups long-grain brown rice
- Salt and pepper
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest plus 3 tablespoons juice
- 3½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths
- 1 shallot, minced
- 2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled (½ cup)
- ¼ cup slivered almonds, toasted
- ¼ cup minced fresh parsley
- Bring 4 quarts water to boil in Dutch oven. Add rice and 1½ teaspoons salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until rice is tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Drain rice, spread onto rimmed baking sheet, and drizzle with 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Let cool completely, about 15 minutes.
- Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch skillet over high heat until just smoking. Add asparagus, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until asparagus is browned and crisp-tender, about 4 minutes; transfer to plate and let cool slightly.
- Whisk remaining 2½ tablespoons oil, lemon zest and remaining 2 tablespoons juice, shallot, ½ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper together in large bowl. Add rice, asparagus, 2 tablespoons goat cheese, 3 tablespoons almonds, and 3 tablespoons parsley. Gently toss to combine and let sit for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to serving platter and sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons goat cheese, remaining 1 tablespoon almonds, and remaining 1 tablespoon parsley. Serve.
Cooling Brown Rice for Salad
After cooking and draining rice, spread onto rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Let rice cool completely, about 15 minutes; transfer to large bowl.
Buying Goat Cheese
Ubiquitous in French and Spanish cuisine and also used often in Morocco, goat cheese (sometimes labeled chèvre) can be aged or fresh, soft or firm, musky or mild, etc. That said, most of what you can buy in American supermarkets (and the variety we favor in our recipes) is relatively young cheese packaged in a log shape; it has a creamy, slightly grainy texture and a tangy, milky flavor. When shopping for goat cheese, avoid precrumbled cheeses—they tend to be dry and chalky. Our favorite goat cheese is Laura Chenel’s Fresh Chèvre Log. Once opened, goat cheese should be wrapped in parchment or wax paper and can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.