I’ve been thinking about forbidden rice (a.k.a. black rice) for awhile now. It’s so gorgeous and healthy—with its high concentration of anthocyanins (think acai berries and blueberries)—I wanted to create a special recipe just to highlight this ingredient. I got the idea for this Watermelon & Forbidden Rice Salad recipe one lovely afternoon—sitting at a sidewalk café with Hem and Maisy the dog, soaking in the sun, sipping a French rosé and enjoying my 'Grains & Greens' salad.
I thought,‘Hey, why not put grains in our green salads?’ And why do so many people feel the need to avoid ‘carbs’ these days, anyway? Whole grains (the good, complex carbs) are key to a healthy vegan diet as a source of fiber and protein. And black rice offers the added nutritional bonus of antioxidants. (Prized for its high nutritional value, it was called 'forbidden rice' because it was reserved for the emperors in ancient China.) Plus, it's delicious, with a nutty flavor and pleasing, firm texture.
Eating outdoors in August also made me think that summer in Wisconsin is almost over. But at the moment, gardens and farmers markets around here are brimming with just-picked-fresh produce, and melons are finally in season. Just in time to create one last summer salad recipe!
Watermelon & forbidden rice salad might look fancy, but it's about as easy to make as any pasta salad. You might read a lot on the Internet about how hard it is to cook black rice—that it’s messy, that you have to rinse the bejeezus out of it, that you shouldn’t cook it in a rice cooker, etc.
Perhaps the ancestors of those ancient emperors—or at least their cooks’ ancestors—were smiling down on me, ‘cause I had none of these issues. (Or, it could be the brand of rice I used: Lotus Foods.) I gave it a light rinse and followed the package’s rice cooker directions. Once your rice is ready (about 30 minutes), it’s a simple a matter of whisking together an easy dressing and assembling your masterpiece!
Watermelon & forbidden rice salad is nutritious, satisfying and SO pretty, I think just about anyone would be delighted to see it on their plate.
Watermelon & Forbidden Rice Salad
- 4 cups seedless watermelon, cubed (about ½ medium melon)
- 1 cup cooked black rice (see notes)
- ½ cup edamame, cooked and shelled (16 oz frozen package of whole, unshelled edamame)
- 6 cups baby arugula or other 'delicate' salad greens (about 5 ounces)
- ½ cup loosely packed mint leaves (.75 ounce package. Large leaves torn/chopped, small leaves left whole)
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Optional: micro greens for garnish
Dressing (see notes)
- 1 inch fresh ginger knob, grated
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons lime juice + ½ teaspoon zest (about 1 lime)
- 2 teaspoons tahini
- ½ teaspoon low sodium soy sauce or liquid aminos
- Cook rice according to package directions. Allow to cool or rinse lightly with cool water. (See notes.)
- Cook edamame according to package directions. When cooled, shell the edamame.
- In a small bowl, combine the ginger, rice vinegar, lime juice, lime zest, sesame oil (omit if oil free) and soy sauce and whisk until well blended.
- In a large bowl, toss the arugula, mint and dressing until the leaves are thoroughly coated. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
- Place the dressed greens on 4 salad plates. Arrange equal portions of cubed watermelon, edamame and black rice on top of the greens. If desired, garnish with micro greens.
- I have not had good results cooking less than 1 cup of rice at a time in my rice cooker, so for this recipe, I had rice left over.
- Cook rice according to package directions. I used 1 cup of rice to 1 ¾ cup of water, and it took about 30 minutes in my rice cooker. According to the package (I used Lotus Foods brand rice), the directions are the same for stovetop cooking
- I prefer very lightly dressed salads without much oil, but you could increase this dressing recipe by 50% or even double it and/or add more oil if you prefer.