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.
It’s easy to take the garden for granted when it’s showing off in the summer, especially my sage which has more gusto this year than any sage plant I’ve ever owned. My weekly weeding sessions keep the herbs in tip top shape, and yield more trimmings than I can manage to use. This is where a little foresight comes in handy.
In a few short months, we’ll be wearing overcoats again, and our gardens will be memories of another summer in the books. It’s possible to keep some mementos, though, ones you can put to good use in soups, stews, and the like. I know crazy to think about those meals when all we want to do is fire up the grill, and eat lots of juicy, ripe, fresh picked tomatoes.
Read more here to see how to dry your own fresh herbs.
It’s peak season at the farm stand right now. I feel like a kid in a candy shop with every visit. While nothing seems to beat a grilled ear of fresh corn, using the kernels raw in a salad is a close contender. I’ve been addicted to this combination lately.
The arugula has a spicy bite that plays so nicely with sweetness of the peaches and corn. The corn also adds a nice crunch, which leaves me feeling quite content. Sesame seeds are my go-to garnish on salads for no other reason than my unapologetic love for them—there’s always a jar within arm’s reach on the counter. Pistachios would be amazing here, too, and might’ve been my first choice had some been in the pantry.
Full disclosure, this salad serves two if you’re good at sharing (ahem), otherwise you might want to double on it. Now, enough talk, let’s get to the recipe.
Watermelon is the quintessential summer fruit. A thick, cold slice on a hot day is the perfect antidote. This year we’re bumping watermelon up from dessert, and serving it as an appetizer—on a stick! Best part? These are great when entertaining—no utensils or dishes needed. They’re so easy to prepare, you can even enlist the kids for some help in the kitchen.
Our Blackberry Vinaigrette adds some acidity to balance the cool sweetness of the watermelon, while the feta cheese adds a salty kick. You can prep the skewers a day in advance. Just wait until you’re ready to serve them to add the cheese, mint, and dressing. The recipe we’re sharing is more a suggestion than a hard set of rules. You’ll notice we don’t even list specific ingredient amounts. Make as many, or as few as you want, and use mini skewers or standard size ones—all depends on the occasion at which you’re serving them.
Here’s how to make them in your own kitchen.