Summer is the time for cold salads – potato and pasta salads being obvious front runners. And no wonder. They are easy to make ahead, packed with flavor and perfect beside a meal off the grill, cold sandwiches, fried chicken, or just a lovely buffet of several cold salads. I am always looking for interesting new ideas for cold summer salads, inspired often by the bounty of the farmers market or my own herb garden. I love this Herbed Farro Salad for a hearty change up, or even and I’ve worked with rice before in a family favorite Curried Rice Salad. Now I offer this very simple but positively flavorful version with bright herbs and sweet peas. As a bonus, this salad or leftovers will keep nicely in the fridge for a day or two. I scoop some out as lunch or a side for dinner a couple of nights in a row.
I like the structure of long grain rice, but I rinse it twice to remove starch so you don’t have a sticky mess and it takes on the dressing. The water will never run completely clear, but as the cloudiness subsides, pot it in the pot. When giving it a post-cooking rinse, fluff with a fork until the rice is not clumping together. My favorite way of cooking rice is to have as much water as rice, then boil it until little bubbling volcanoes appear on the surface, then remove it from the heat. Cover the pan with a tea towel absorbs steam that might make it sticky and a tight lid helps finish cooking. It’s treat when I find fresh peas to shell at the market, but frozen peas are perfect for this, cook them just until they are very bright green, but not at all mushy – I like to do it in the microwave with a little water, though many packages are microwave ready. Don’t be shy on the herbs, they are the source of the most flavor.
Rice, Pea and Feta Salad
6 – 8servings
1 ½ cups long grain white rice
10 ounces English peas, fresh or frozen
3 large green onions, finely diced
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/3 cup olive oil
¼ cup white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 Tablespoons finely chopped dill
1 Tablespoon finely chopped mint
Salt and black pepper to taste
- Put the rice in a wire mesh strainer and rinse with cold water until the water starts to turn clear. Turn into a large pot and cover with water, twice the volume of the rice. Salt the water very generously (do be generous, it’s hard to get the rice well salted after cooking). then bring to a boil. Cook until little air vents appear on the top of the rice, then turn off the heat, place a folded tea towel over the top of the pot then cover with a tight lid. Let the rice rest for 10 minutes, then fluff with a fork. Return the cooked rice to the strainer and rinse with cold water, fluffing with the fork, until the rice is no longer clumping together. Put the rice into a large bowl.
- Cook the peas according to the package instructions until just tender. You can steam them over simmering water until bright green, or microwave for 2 – 3 minutes until bright. Drain the peas and add to the rice in the bowl. Add the chopped green onion and the crumbled feta to the bowl and use the fork to combine everything evenly and to separate any clumps of rice.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar and mustard. Season with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Whisk in the chopped dill and mint, then pour over the rice in the bowl. Use the fork to stir, making sure all the rice and peas are coated with dressing. Cover loosely and refrigerate for several hours until chilled through. The salad can be made one day ahead.