One of my favorite parts of cooking has become “the wondering of what in the heck I’m making.” Sometimes, I simply have no idea. I mean, I read through recipes and can somewhat create images in my mind, but honestly, over the past year, I’ve been exposed to a huge amount of “interesting” new dishes. Today is certainly no different.
I want you to imagine something. Imagine putting a piece of an orange, a few chopped and toasted pecans, along with some green olives in your mouth and chewing. What do you think that would taste like? I completely understand. I had no idea either. It’s these types of recipes that I love.
I honestly didn’t think this one was going to be good. I started tasting things half way through and I wasn’t impressed. It wasn’t until I added everything together in a large bowl and mixed things up that I came to understand the magic of this particular favor combination. I have to hand it to the Test Kitchen – they know what they’re doing.
The very first thing I noticed after chewing my first mouthful was the toasted pecans. The “toasting” added all of the distinct flavor I’m so used to and the rest of the nut added the texture. The second thing I noticed was a tie between the orange pieces and the green olives. The saltiness of the olives works wonderfully with the sweetness of the orange. I honestly don’t understand how it does it, but it does.
The basmati rice is the perfect middleman for ingredients like this and the vinaigrette wonderfully adds more saltiness and acid. And I’m not just saying this. I don’t like hyperbole. Even Laura’s eyebrows went up after tasting a bite for a few seconds. She said, “Oh, that’s interesting!”
Serves: 4 to 6
1 1/2 Cups Basmati Rice
Regular Table Salt
Ground Black Pepper
2 Tablespoons Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
2 Teaspoons White Wine Vinegar
1 Teaspoon Garlic, Minced
1 Teaspoon Orange Zest
1 Tablespoon Orange (or Lemon) Juice
2 Oranges, Peeled and Cut into Segments
1/3 Cup Green Olives, Chopped
1/3 Cup Pecans, Crushed and Toasted
1 Tablespoon Dried Oregano
I’d like to thank America’s Test Kitchen for this vegetarian recipe. It’s another knockout and I’m proud to share my version here. Their recipe is called Rice Salad with Oranges, Olives and Almonds, so, as you can see, I decided to mix things up a bit. I was truly inspired by their original though.
Prepare the Rice
Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt. As the water is coming to a boil, add the dried rice to a large skillet and warm it over medium heat. Stir the rice every so often for about 5 minutes or until it becomes fragrant. When it does, remove it from the heat.
When the water in the pot is finally boiling, go ahead and add the rice to it. Stir every so often and let cook for about 10 minutes or until it becomes just tender. Don’t overcook the rice. Taste test it to make sure it’s not too soft and when it’s just cooked, pour everything into a strainer.
Give the strainer a few shakes to remove as much water as you can and then spread the rice out on a large baking sheet to cool.
After the rice has cooled for about 15 minutes, add it to a large bowl.
In a small bowl, add the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, orange zest and orange juice. Also add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Whisk well with a fork.
Prep Other Ingredients
I decided to add a few photos of the prepped ingredients to this section. I know they’re fairly straightforward, but the more photos, the better, in my opinion.
First, coarsely chop the olives.
Next, toast the crushed pecans in a small skillet over medium heat for a few minutes. Just until they begin to turn brown.
Finally, peel both oranges, pull the pieces apart and cut them into segments.
Combine All Ingredients
First, add the vinaigrette to the rice in the large bowl. Mix well so the rice is coated. Then, add the remaining ingredients (oranges, olives, pecans, oregano) to the bowl as well. Mix everything together well.
The Final Salad
That’s pretty much all there is. All you need to do now is to scoop some of the salad out into a few bowls and serve. Tasty, tasty, tasty. Enjoy!