Rice salad can be made with long-or-short-grain rice. I prefer short-grain rice, like Arborio, because it cooks up fluffier and absorbs more of the flavors of the other ingredients in the salad. Long-grain rice, like Carolina and Uncle Ben’s, stays firmer and has a more “staccato” effect – that is, it’ll stand more separately and distinctly from the other ingredients.
The one good thing I can say about pasta salads is that people feel comfortable improvising with them. Feel free to treat rice salads the same way. Although there are some traditional combinations, like seafood rice salad or shrimp-and-asparagus rice salad, you can really be creative and make any combination. And they are a great way to use leftovers.
For this dish, I took the classic salad of mozzarella, tomato, and basil from Capri, added rice, and dressed it with virgin olive oil and lemon juice. Some of my other favorite combinations are shredded grilled chicken, tomatoes, and arugula; cubes of grilled fresh tuna, Gaeta olives, Cerignola olives, cherry tomatoes, sliced red onion, and basil; grilled vegetables like peppers, zucchini, eggplant, and mushrooms with shavings of Parmegiano-Reggiano; thinly sliced raw baby artichokes, diced celery, and shavings of Parmegiano-Reggiano; rice salad “antipasto” with cubed Prosciutto, mortadella, cacciatorino, provola, Pecorino, Gaeta olives, roasted peppers, pickled mushrooms, and pickled artichokes.
- 2 cups Arborio or other short-grain Italian rice.
- 2 large or 3 medium vine ripened tomatoes, cored and cut into 1-inch chunks (about 3 cups)
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, preferably mozzarella di bufala, cut into ½-inch cubes (1 generous cup)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- ½ cup fresh shredded basil leaves
Bring 2 quarts of salted water to a boil in a large saucepan. Stir in the rice and cook until the rice is al dente, tender but firm. 14 to 16 minutes. Drain the rice and spread it out on a clean tray to cool.
When the rice is cool and feels dry, toss it in a bowl along with tomatoes, mozzarella, salt, and pepper. Whisk the oil and lemon juice together in a small separate bowl and pour over the salad, tossing gently until the rice is coated and the ingredients are mixed well. Let the stand at room temperature 30 minutes to an hour. Just before serving, toss in the basil, check the seasoning, and serve.
Rice Salad with Chicken Vegetables
This Salad with Chicken and Vegetables
This is a delicious way to use up whatever is left of a roasted or grilled chicken. The following amounts are just suggestions. You can use whatever vegetables you like or have in the garden, keeping more or less to a ratio of two parts to one part each vegetable and chicken. Cook and cool the rice as described above. When it is cool, toss in a large bowl together with 2 cups of room temperature shredded or diced chicken with the skin removed, 10 cherry tomatoes cut in half, and ½ cup each cooked string beans cut into 1-inch lengths, thinly sliced scallions, and finely diced cooked carrots. Either dress with the lemon dressing from the above recipe, or make a simple oil and vinegar dressing, seasoned with mustard and honey to taste. If you like, lighten the salad by tossing it together with the cleaned salad greens of your choice.
Rice Salad with Seafood and Capers:
Cook and cool the rice as described above. When is it cool, toss together with 2 cups cooked shrimp or scallops or 1 cup crabmeat, 1 cup sliced celery, ½ cup thinly sliced scallions, and ¼ cup each pitted, chopped green olives and drained tiny capers. In a separate small bowl, mash 2 hard-boiled egg yolks together with 3 tablespoons wine vinegar. Switch to a whisk and beat in 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Toss the dressing with the salad and taste, adding, salt, pepper, oil, or vinegar as you like. The salad can be lightened by tossing together with cleaned arugula leaves, torn into pieces.