Friday, May 27, 2011

Picnic-Perfect Side Dish: Nutted Brown Rice

Just in time for Memorial Day weekend, I'm sharing one of my favorite, easily-portable sides that goes great with grilled chicken, and can double as a vegetarian-friendly entree for those who aren't eating meat. Best part? If you have leftovers, they're great with some Greek yogurt and stewed rhubarb (speaking from experience). Amazing!

Growing up, my family would always make a nutted wild rice with pecans, raisins, and mint. We would serve it aside a grilled breast of chicken for a picnic dinner, or bring it along to a grilling party — it goes so well with barbecued chicken. So, when it came time to come up with a grill-friendly side dish, I knew just where to go for inspiration.

Not everyone likes wild rice, so I swapped the slim, dark grains for short-grain brown rice. Cooking it with a bit of coconut oil gives it an irresistible creaminess. The addition of finely chopped scallions gives the rice a subtle kick, and the juicy grapes add more color and a sweet touch. The orange juice and zest adds another layer of complexity to the dish — I've found those I serve this to are often left wondering exactly what it is.

1 tablespoon coconut oil
3 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1 1/2 cups short-grain brown rice
12 ounces red grapes, washed and halved
1 bunch scallions, whites and half of the greens finely sliced
Zest and juice of 1 orange
1 cup walnuts, toasted

In a large saucepan, heat coconut and water over high heat until boiling. Add the brown rice, season with salt, cover, and simmer on low heat for 40 minutes, or until the rice is just cooked and water is gone. Turn off the heat and let the rice stand for 5 minutes.

While the rice cooks, combine the grapes, scallions, and orange zest and juice together in a medium bowl. Set aside.

When the rice is done, add to the scallion mixture. Combine and let it sit for 10 minutes as the rice cools. Check seasoning and top with walnuts.

Serves 6-8
Total time: 1 hour

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