Forbidden rice, roasted beet, and kale salad

A hearty salad that is rich in flavor and color with the nutty taste and deep hues of forbidden rice.

The Garden of Eating
Toss this kale and rice salad with garlic, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, and whole grain mustard dressing and then let it sit in the fridge for the flavors to meld.

This is a gem of a salad. I have to thank my friend Margaret Mary for bringing it to a Super Bowl this year. Although it did not necessarily fit into the theme of deep fried appetizers, it blew me away with its wonderful flavors, nutty heartiness, and beautiful colors. I quizzed her about the ingredients and then recreated it at home a few days later with great results.

It features "forbidden rice" a kind of Chinese black rice that is so nutritious it is rumoured to have been reserved for royalty only. Whether that’s true or just a clever marketing gimmick, it’s clear that this is a tasty rice packed with antioxidants known as anthocyanins – the same kind found in blueberries and acai and that sort of uber healthy thing.

More importantly (to me, at least), it has a lovely, nutty flavor and a toothsome, slightly chewy texture. Plus there’s the color. In dried form, it looks almost black. When you cook it, it turns a pretty purple-red color. Kale brings its hearty, slightly sweet, vaguely mineral flavor and provides a rich green base for this colorful salad. If you’re interested in the health benefits, kale is truly a superpower, offering protein, fiber, Vitamins K, C and A, folate and lots of other goodies.

Roasting the beets brings out their natural sweetness and makes them mellow and just the right amount of soft.

The dressing is simple and good – garlic, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, and whole grain mustard. Toasted pecans amp up the nutty, slightly sweet profiles and adds some crunch.

Toss it all together, then drench it in the dressing and let it sit for a while in the fridge to soften the kale and let the flavors meld.

It’s so hearty that it keeps well for several days in the fridge.

Forbidden rice, roasted beet, and Kale Salad
Adapted slightly from Allison Day's lovely recipe in the New York Times
Serves 4-6
For the salad:
1 lb. beets (you can use any color you like though there is something nice about the deep color of red beets)
 2/3 cup uncooked black rice (I used Lotus Foods' Forbidden rice but you could use Lundberg Farms Black Japonica or any black or purple rice
1-1/3 cup water
1/2 cup pecans, roughly chopped
1 bunch organic kale, washed and dried, ribs removed, chopped or shredded
For the dressing:
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil (you could also use walnut oil if you're into nuttiness)
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
1 clove garlic, pressed or minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme, lightly crumbled with your fingers
2 teaspoons sea salt
Several grinds of black pepper and more to taste
 1. Start by roasting the beets. If you can, do this step a day or more ahead to save yourself some time. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Rinse the beets (no need to peel them) and position them on a sheet or two of tinfoil (you want a tight package so they end up kind of steaming in there), drizzle with olive oil and wrap them up well. Roast them for at least an hour and 15 minutes – depending on how large they are, it may take closer to 2 hours for them to cook all the way through. You can test by removing them and poking with a fork – they're done when the fork sinks easily all the way into the middle of the largest beet. Remove and let cool until you can handle them without burning yourself. Remove the skins, they should slip off with ease and cut off the top and tail. Cut them into bite-sized chunks and set aside.
 2. Make the rice. Add the rice and water to a medium-sized pot with a tight-fitting lid, bring to a boil then reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 40 or so minutes. Fluff the rice.
 3. While the rice is cooking, make the dressing, mixing all the ingredients together well with a fork or a whisk. If you have a jar with a tight-fitting lid, you can also just cover it and shake well.
 4. Place the chopped kale, diced beets and rice in a pretty bowl that's large enough to mix them all together in comfortably, drizzle the dressing over all and stir well to coat everything. Cover and put in the fridge to "stew" for a while, at least an hour and more is better.
 5. Toast the pecans for a few minutes until they're nicely browned and crunchy. I toast mine on a sheet of recycled tinfoil in the toaster oven at 300 degrees F. for about 5-6 minutes, shaking once to toast them evenly.
 6. When you're ready to serve, top the salad with the pecans and toss well. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if needed, and serve.

Related post on The Garden of Eating: Citrus-massaged kale salad with toasted almonds, Parmesan, and dried cranberries

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