People always ask me where I come up with ideas for cooking and recipes. There’s not one answer because inspiration can come from a variety of different things: a stroll down the produce aisle or through the farmer’s market, a childhood memory, a particular smell or color, and in the case of the following recipe, mowing the lawn.
Under the back corner of our deck near the stairs to the lawn is a large patch of mint. If you’ve grown mint before, you know it can easily take over wherever it’s planted, and once it does, it’s difficult to get under control. Since the mint was there long before we moved in, my main way to keep it under control is to run over it with the lawn mower. On this particular afternoon, I thought it was a shame not to use it for something, so I spared its life and vowed to come up with a recipe that day (I knew if I didn’t, I wouldn’t get around to it and just have that much more mint to mow over next time).
The rest of the idea came from my kitchen counter – a four pound bag of navel oranges and the rack of ribs I was planning to bbq that afternoon. The idea of the freshness of mint and orange together to help cut the sweetness of bbq sauce seemed ideal. With a half bag of rice I spotted laying on the kitchen counter, I thought a rice salad would work great.
This comes together pretty easily, and is delicious. A couple things that will really boost the flavor are getting a great, crunchy toast on the almonds, and chilling the salad before you eat it. Because this recipe can appeal to vegetarian and vegan tastes as well, it’s going to be my go-to salad this summer for potlucks, picnics and bbq. And I’m not going to mind a bit if there are leftovers!
Minted Orange Rice Salad
- 1 ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 4 Tblsp olive oil
- 1 cup mint leaves, (loosely packed) chiffonade
- zest and juice of two medium oranges
- – lemon juice if needed
- 2 cups long grain rice, uncooked
- 3 ¾ cups water
- 1 cup green onion, sliced
- 2/3 cup currants
- ½ cup slivered almonds, toasted
- mint leaves for garnish , optional
- Zest the oranges and place zest in a medium bowl.
- Juice the oranges and remove ¼ cup juice and add to the water. Put the liquid in a large saucepan and bring to a boil with the two cups of rice. Cover and reduce heat, simmer for 20 minutes or until tender. Remove from heat and pour rice on a cookie sheet or large plate to cool.
- Measure remaining orange juice and add lemon juice if needed to make a total of 1/3 cup. Add remaining dressing ingredients and whisk to combine. Set aside.
- When rice is completely cool, toss gently together with green onion, currants, chiffonade mint and toasted almonds. Add the dressing and toss well.
- Cover and chill for at least one hour.
- Adjust seasoning to taste, garnish with mint leaves if desired and serve.
Makes 12 servings, about ½ cup each.