Healthy Brown Rice Salad with Turkey and Mango
Fifteen million Americans have a food allergy.
I found this shocking statistic on the website for Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE). According to FARE food allergies affect 1 in 13 children--roughly 2 in each classroom.
Although no one in my immediate family has a food allergy, one of my dearest friends who lives at the end of the road is troubled by this condition.
Denise and I share a love of gardening, eating, decorating, eating, movies,....and did I mention eating? We are foodies for sure, but she has food allergies that get in the way at times. Wheat and gluten are not her friends. Digesting raw spinach or lettuce is also a bit of a problem, and she's allergic to anything in the potato/tomato family.
In a few days a mutual friend will be driving up from Portland to spend the weekend. We'll be having lunch together on Saturday and I've been asked to make a main dish salad. But what can I bring?
- Potato salad?--No.
- Green salad with tomatoes? Absolutely not!
- Pasta salad is out too. What to do?
Well, rice will work. So I thought about how to coax that into a main dish salad.
The Rice.--The first consideration is what type of rice to use--wild rice, white rice, or brown. Did you know that wild rice is actually not a rice at all--it is the seed from a marsh grass. Many people enjoy wild rice because of its nutty flavor and crunch, but it does not absorb flavors as readily as true rice grains. White rice certainly provides a "blank canvass" on which to build flavors, but can tend to get soggy when used in a cold salad. I like the slight nutty taste and texture of brown rice, so that was my choice.
The Protein.--My next consideration was what type of protein to add to the rice to make this a main dish meal. For ease of preparation I bought a pre-cooked oven roasted turkey breast. Leftover chicken could also be used. And, if you want a vegetarian meal I would suggest seitan; however, seitan is made from wheat gluten. A gluten-free alternative and good source of complete protein is firm tofu. To prepare tofu for this recipe you should:
- Remove from packaging
- Slice horizontally
- Place each slice, sandwiched between several thicknesses of paper towel, on a cake cooling rack
- Place a weight (a large sauté pan will do) on top of the tofu and let sit for about 30 minutes to remove the excess water.
- Cut the squeezed tofu into bite-size cubes. Toss with a tablespoon of olive oil and either sauté briefly over medium-high heat, or bake in a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes.
The Supporting Cast.--I love contrasts--crisp and creamy, sweet and savory. I chose mango for its sweet flavor with just a hint of tartness. Celery provides a bit of crispness, and cashews are sweet-salty-crunchy.
- 1 12-oz pkg frozen brown rice, thawed (or about 2 1/4 cups cooked brown rice
- 1 cup cooked turkey breast, diced (you could use chicken)
- 2 tablespoons green onion (scallion), minced
- 1 medium mango, peeled, pitted and diced (about 1 cup prepared)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon + 1 tsp. white balsamic vinegar, (or other mild vinegar such as apple cider or rice wine)
- 3 tablespoons dried cranberries
- 1/4 cup cashews, chopped
- 1/2 cup gorgonzola cheese, (optional)
- Cook rice according to instructions on package. Pour into large bowl and allow to cool while you prepare the other ingredients
- Dice the turkey, mince the scallions, prepare and finely dice the mango. Place each of these in the large bowl with the brown rice.
- Whisk together the olive oil and balsamic. Add salt and pepper to taste and drizzle over the brown rice/turkey mixture. Toss gently.
- If making ahead, cover and store in the refrigerator up to one day.
- Just before serving stir in the dried cranberries and cashews. Top with cheese if desired. I like gorgonzola, but another salty-crumbly cheese (such as feta) could be used.
- With the change of just a few ingredients this salad could take on a totally different taste and appearance. Instead of mango, cashews and gorgonzola you might try sun-dried tomatoes, briny black olives, and shaved percorino Romano cheese. Or cucumber, garbanzo beans, and feta cheese.
© 2013 Linda Lum