It is a good idea, I think, to always have these three things in the refrigerator: A homemade soup, a homemade salsa or tangy sauce such as chermoula or chimichurri and some sort of grain salad.
With these dishes on hand, it is easy to enjoy a healthy midday snack, especially if you have teenagers who come and go as they please. It is also a blessing if you work at home or if you simply have a very busy schedule.
Soup is also an easy and delicious breakfast, with some of the salad alongside if you are a big eater in the morning.
Last week’s soup was a potato-sweet potato broth with Cheddar cheese, and the salad was a simple small pasta salad with chickpeas and celery. When it came to salsa, I confess that I cheated with a commercial option, La Casa Foods traditional Mexican salsa.
We all need a reliable cheat now and then, and La Casa Foods makes not only very good salsa but also the best tortilla chips I’ve ever tasted. And they are based in Sonoma.
These three salads are perfect in the spring, as soon as the first tender fava beans appear. We’re starting to see a few already, and they should continue through May, if the weather cooperates.
When serving a rice salad, it is important to pay attention to temperature; it will taste best slightly warm or at room temperature but not cold. If you must make it in advance, remove it from the refrigerator 30 to 45 minutes before serving it. And once it has reached the proper temperature, taste it and correct for salt and acid, as needed.
Spring Rice Salad
Makes 6 servings
— Warm Fava Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
8 fat asparagus stalks, cut into 3/4-inch diagonal slices
— Olive oil
3 1/2 cups cooked rice of choice (see Note below), cooled and fluffed with a fork
— Juice of 1 lemon
— Kosher salt
— Black pepper in a mill
1 small red onion, cut into small dice
6-8 radishes, cut into very small dice
1 cup English peas, blanched and drained
1/2 cup shelled and roasted pistachios
3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
2 tablespoons fresh snipped chives
8-10 butter lettuce leaves
First, make the vinaigrette, set it aside and keep it warm. Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
Put the asparagus on a baking sheet, drizzle a little olive oil over them, toss and cook in a 500 degree oven for about 9 minutes, or until the asparagus is tender. Remove from the oven and set aside.
Put the rice into a large bowl, squeeze the lemon juice over it, and season with salt and pepper. Let rest for 10 to 15 minutes.
Add the onion, radishes, peas, and asparagus and toss gently. Add the pistachios, parsley and chives, toss again, and pour about two-thirds of the warm vinaigrette over everything.
Spread the lettuce leaves over a platter, spoon the salad on top of the leaves, add the remaining dressing and enjoy right away.
Note: Use whatever rice you prefer. Sometimes I use a mix of jasmine or basmati and wild rice; sometimes I use an Italian or Spanish rice and occasionally I use either black “forbidden” rice or red rice.