Austin360Cooks: When a black rice salad is the dark horse of a dinner party

It’s always nice to show up with a dish at a potluck and then go home with a recipe or two that you know you’ll be making for the next one.

Potluck dinner parties are the best, if only because you get to try several different cooking styles at once. This forbidden rice salad with corn, cranberries, ginger and cilantro isn’t a dish I ever would have made without trying first. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

A few weeks ago, we were invited to a friend’s house for dinner with his family; the day of the get-together, he texted to request that whatever we bring for dessert be vegan for some other guests he’d invited.

Rather than to try to whip up some impressive vegan tart, brownie or pie at the last minute, I went with a simple fruit salad that required no recipe. It was a nice complement to the host’s harissa chickpea stew from Milk Street Kitchen, Christopher Kimball’s bimonthly food magazine, which features more international dishes than I’ve seen in any publication since Lucky Peach.

If you’re a major foodie, you’d benefit from a subscription to Milk Street Kitchen, which is more advanced and internationally focused than America’s Test Kitchen’s Cook’s Illustrated, the magazine that Milk Street founder Christopher Kimball started. Kimball left the company to start Milk Street, but not without legal action. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

Our host also made a pomegranate salad with radishes and a sumac dressing, but it was our new friends’ contribution that was the dark horse of the dinner. At first sight, the dish looked like a simple rice salad. I wasn’t sure if it was going to be served warm or cold, and with the dark color of the black rice, I couldn’t see any other ingredients besides the corn and cranberries, which is a combination of ingredients I’d never had before.

This rice salad might not look like much, but it was a hit at a recent family dinner party. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

Every guest at the table was surprised when we finally sat down to the eat. The ginger, garlic, lime juice, cilantro and serrano pepper infused every grain of rice with flavor, and even though they are both sweet, the corn and cranberries balanced the savory, spicy ingredients that seasoned the black rice, which is also called forbidden rice.

Our new friends said the idea for the salad originated from their friend, Janet, and had morphed each time it moved from kitchen to kitchen. Some use lemon juice instead of lime; others omit the pepper. When I make this for the next potluck I attend, I might use wild rice instead of forbidden rice, although the plump texture of those deeply colored grains was simply delightful. As a bonus, fiber- and iron-rich black rice has as many antioxidants as blueberries, so it’s the kind of dish that you could easily serve as a main dish if you’re making it at home. You can serve it warm, cold or at room temperature, and it would be a great filling for a wrap or served on top of salad greens.

Forbidden Rice With Corn and Cranberries

1 cup forbidden black rice
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 serrano pepper, minced, no seeds
2 cups corn kernels, fresh
1/4 cup lemon or lime juice, or to taste
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves, to taste
1/2 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds, for topping

Add rice to a medium-large saucepan with 2 cups water. Bring to a rapid simmer, then lower the heat, cover and simmer gently until the water is absorbed, about 30 to 40 minutes. If you’d like a more tender grain, add 1/2 cup additional water and cook until absorbed.

Just before the rice is done, heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the garlic, ginger and serrano, and saute over low heat until golden. Add the corn kernels and sauteé just until warmed through.

Transfer the cooked rice to the skillet. Turn the heat up to medium-high, then add the lemon or lime juice, cilantro and cranberries. Stir together gently, then season to taste with salt and pepper. To serve, transfer to a serving platter or bowl and sprinkle the pumpkin seeds over the top.

— Adapted from a recipe by Janet Chaykin


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