Rome is on my travel bucket list. Until I get there, I feed my urge to go by following a few bloggers and writers living in the Eternal City. Right now I can see it’s rice salad season from their photos on Instagram. I know, that sounds crazy—does rice really have a season? Well, it’s not so much about the growing season of the rice, as it is about the ingredients you use in it. Fresh tomatoes are a main ingredient, and that’s what makes rice salad a seasonal dish in the Roman mindset.
Aside from tomatoes, and of course the rice, the remaining ingredients for insalata di riso vary, much like many other family recipes handed down generation to generation. A pickled, briny addition are key, be it capers, olives, or a giardiniera (pickled vegetable mixture). Many, but not all, include red bell peppers, carrots, and celery—I went with two out of the three here.
One thing I do urge, though, is to mix your salad while the rice is still warm, not cold as some recipes direct. Trust me on this one. Warm rice will better soak up the flavors of the dressing and olive oil. If you’ve salted your rice properly, you might find there’s no need to add any additional salt once the salad is mixed. I’ll leave that final decision up to you, so season according to your own taste.
It’s so easy to get spoiled during the summer, as produce is plentiful, and needs little help from us to shine. This salad is a perfect example. Ripe, juicy tomatoes, crisp cucumbers, and vibrant fresh-picked mint from the garden come together for a simple, but incredibly satisfying no-cook side dish.
As we often say when talking about Dress It Up Dressing, ingredients this good shouldn’t be disguised—dressing should enhance them, highlighting their innate deliciousness. All this trio of cucumbers, tomatoes, and mint needs is a bit of our Red Wine Vinaigrette, a grating of fresh lemon zest, and some salt to make your taste buds go “whoa”. That was my reaction when I first made. I truly wasn’t expecting such a humble salad to stop me in my tracks, and yet it did. Even with all my decades spent in the kitchen (I started young!), there are still plenty of surprises yet to be discovered.
Here’s the recipe.
Here’s a different take on a classic.
When I was at college, my friend Mat Record was on his way to a party where he had been asked to bring a potato salad. He kept on repeating, “a po-ta-TOE salad” “a po—TAY—to salad”. Rolling around the word “potato” in an English accent so richly and vividly that twenty plus years later, I cannot see a potato salad without hearing Mat’s voice playing with the word.
And potato salad has as many variations as Mat came up with pronunciations that day. Some days you want a classic, some days a classic with a twist, and other days—just the twist. So you’ll see several recipes for potato salad here. I don’t believe there’s such a thing as The Best. This one is simply the most recent one I’ve made, and loved.
I made it for people who don’t think they like potatoes (that would be my children), but they do. Sometimes. And they did. This time. I think the key to them liking it was keeping some bite to the potatoes (read: not mushy), and adding a little something extra to break up the carb overload. Some finely diced kohlrabi and celery adds a nice dose of crunch.
I used a few different types of potatoes based on what I found at the market, including one sweet potato. They add some natural sweetness, and are loaded with extra nutrition. I like to leave on all the skins, but feel free to peel them if you prefer.
Enough chat. Here’s the recipe!