Summer days are salad days

Patricia Soper
Patricia Soper

It's about this time that I usually go on strike in the kitchen. After the hectic lead-up to Christmas I am looking for some reward befitting my sterling efforts. This usually translates to lots of food cooked on the barbecue, which I have steadfastly refused to become involved with in any way, shape or form. My contribution is the salads and, if everyone is very, very good, new potatoes and some peas.

Most of us grow lettuce, which has an infuriating habit of peaking in twos and threes and seemingly expands by the hour. I usually harvest them as they mature and refrigerate in loose plastic bags rather than allow them to become bitter and overblown. They make great "cups" for today's salads. I simply break them up, lay on a platter and spoon the rice and bean salads into the crisp leaves.

If you make the rice salad, don't be tempted to use white rice. I have experimented with a number of different types but this salad works best with wholegrain brown rice, which holds its shape and retains its nutty flavour. Include any salad vegetables you fancy in the bean salad. Although beans are high in fibre and have some protein, they need a punchy dressing and lots of ground black pepper to bring out their best.

A very happy New Year to all Southland cooks. Take a leaf out of my book and put the food processor and cake mixer out of sight for a few days.

TANGY RICE SALAD (serves 6-8)

2 cups brown rice

3 finely sliced spring onions

3 stalks diced celery

1 diced green capsicum

1/2 cup chopped roasted peanuts

1/2 cup vegetable oil (not olive)

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 tsp curry powder

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt

Method: Cook rice as directed on packet, drain and cool.

Place in a large serving bowl.

Add spring onions, celery, capsicum and nuts.

Put oil, vinegar, lemon juice, spices, sugar and salt in a lidded jar.

Replace lid and shake until the dressing is combined.

Pour over rice and vegetables.

Toss, cover and chill.

This salad keeps well for a couple of days as long as it is covered and refrigerated.

PAT'S BEAN SALAD (serves 4-6)

2 cans four-bean mix

2 finely sliced spring onions or 1/2 cup chopped chives

1 chopped red capsicum

1/2 cup corn kernels (optional)

3-4 stalks finely chopped celery

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1/3 cup balsamic dressing

ground black pepper

Method: Rinse and drain beans thoroughly.

Put in a serving bowl then add all the other ingredients.

Toss, cover and refrigerate for 2 hours to allow flavours to mingle.

Cook's notes: Salads are best served in large bowls: they are much easier to toss and far easier to get at.

Plastic bowls are cheap, easy to handle and ideal for barbecues.

The Southland Times