It’s winter, and it’s been pretty darn cold these last few days in the Pacific Northwest. In fact it’s the coldest winter we’ve had in 20 years. That’s cold enough for us. Don’t worry, Winter 2016-2017, we’re impressed.
We don’t mind the cold so much. It forces us to stay inside, to hibernate, and make our home a cozy nest. We are grateful to have a roof over our heads and ample heat in our apartment.
There is one thing we really don’t like about the cold: It’s not salad weather.
Compared to the rest of the year, this is the time when we are less likely to want to eat salad. We’re cold, and salad is cold. Not the best combination.
It’s unfortunate, because during the winter months our bodies are working hard to defend ourselves from cold and flu viruses being passed around. Our bodies need a nutritious diet of vegetables to maintain that defense.
But guess what: Salads do not have to be eaten cold.
Yes, it’s true. Salads can be warm.
At what point does a salad ceases to become a salad and becomes a plate of warm vegetables?
We are The Salad Lobby, and if we want to call it salad, we will call it salad.
One way to prepare a warm salad is to add one hot, cooked main ingredient and combine it with the rest of your raw ingredients. Such as a cooked grain, like in this Warm Brown Rice Salad with Pomegranate, Fennel, and Apple.
We love cooking brown rice in our Instant Pot, because it cuts the time almost in half (32 minutes versus up to 60 on the stove top). It also cooks the rice to the perfect consistency for grain salad. Tender but firm.
While the rice is cooking, prepare the other ingredients (our favorite way to keep varying amounts of ingredients separate before mixing is glass nesting bowls).
You can buy pomegranate seeds already shucked. But we like shucking our own, because it’s cheaper, and it’s not really that difficult.
Slicing the fennel bulb thinly gave it a great texture combined with the rice and other ingredients and tempered the strong anise flavor so it didn’t overpower the salad.
We chopped the apples but another option would be to julienne them with a mandoline slicer, which may complement the texture of the thin slices of fennel bulb.
Next we added some chopped toasted walnuts and two tablespoons of chopped mint (a little more would have been better, as the mint flavor was a little too subtle, but that’s all we had, folks).
After the rice finishes cooking, let it cool for about 30 minutes. You don’t want it too hot.
Combine about two cups of the cooked rice, (or more, if you’d like) with the other ingredients.
Mix in a fresh vinaigrette. Something out of the fridge will cool your warm rice, so make your own or let your refrigerated dressing warm to room temperature first.
This recipe is dairy-free, but we could see it served with some crumbled feta or goat cheese on top.
If it’s a warm salad you’re going for, serve immediately. You can also serve it as a cold salad, but we find the texture of cold brown rice a little odd.
Stay warm, salad lovers!
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