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Humble Food: Brown Rice Salad with Feta-Tomato Sauce

Posted Jul 28 2009 12:18am

I love summer salads that seem to be the warm-weather cousin of their more wintry casserole counterparts, salads with a bit of grains or whole wheat pasta tossed in for added fiber and protein and texture, creating a one-dish meal both hearty and light and refreshing.

I've been intending to make a rice salad for a while, so last week when I came across a tempting-sounding farro salad recipe while happily perusing Bon Appitit over morning coffee, I thought "well, I could just make it with rice today, and farro the next time!" Assembling the salad components that evening, I whipped up the dressing, set it aside, and began putting the main ingredients into a sturdy glass bowl. Thankfully, when fixing a dish containing a sauce or dressing, through a few mishaps I've acquired the habit of sampling a tiny bite of the dish with the dressing before blithely tossing in the entire bowl of sauce. So, humming contentedly, I assembled a little fork-full of brown rice, green beans, and feta cheese, and added a few drops of the proposed balsamic-marjoram-Dijon sauce on top. Well, I don't know if the salad was simply perturbed that I had substituted brown rice for farro, but oh dear, while it wasn't bad... it certainly wasn't very good either. All of the ingredients, delicious in their own right, fought noisily for attention instead of playing politely together. Somewhere along the way the rice and feta cheese had started a dreadful argument with that dressing, and didn't seem inclined to make peace anytime soon. So, I set aside the dressing, and improvised...

Here's to rescued dishes that turn into fortuitous surprises!

Brown Rice Salad with Feta-Tomato Sauce

1 cup brown rice
2 cup green beans, cut into 1" pieces
1 cup corn kernels
1 T olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups cubed cooked chicken OR 2 cups cubed baked tofu
4 oz feta cheese
1/2 cup part-skim mozzarella
1 1/2 cups tomato puree
1 T minced fresh basil
A bit of vegetable broth, if needed

~ Cook the brown rice according to package directions, and set aside.
~ Steam the green beans and corn kernels, and set those aside.
~ In a large skillet or dutch oven, saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil over medium-high heat until the onion is limp and translucent.
~ Reduce the heat to low, and stir in the brown rice, green beans, corn, chicken or tofu, feta cheese, mozzarella, tomato puree, and basil. Heat gently, stirring, until the salad is heated through and the cheeses have begun to melt. You can add a bit of vegetable broth during this process, if the mixture seems to dry.
~ Serve warm, for optimum melted cheese comforts, or cold, for a refreshing twist...

* On a side note, a humble request for advice... As you can tell from these photos, I'm having a bit of trouble photographing lighter colored foods without excessive brightness or overexposure in the end result. I've tried turning off the flash, using different lighting and background colors, or zooming out while taking the photo since I usually do a bit of cropping on the computer anyway, but I keep coming up with somewhat monochromatic brightness when I try to photograph things like rice, corn, etc. I can fix some of the contrast problems with photo editing, but the original issue still lurks and lingers. Dear readers, I send forth a cry for help! :-) How should I solve my photography conundrum? Words of wisdom would be greatly appreciated! :-)
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