The inspiration for this salad came from one of my favorite Southeast Asian dishes: spring rolls. I love the way the chewy rice paper wrappers yield to the mixture of fragrant herbs, vegetables, and meaty mushrooms that fills the rolls and is enhanced by a flavorful peanut sauce. I wanted to build the same intensity of flavors in a dish without the labor intensive process of filling the spring rolls.
For the base of this salad, I cooked a batch of black rice, which is identical in size to regular long grain rice, but has a black exterior and a more complex flavor than white rice. Black rice is just as nutritious as brown rice, but cooks at the same speed of white rice, giving it the best of both worlds in terms of convenience and nutrition. A pan of golden brown shiitake mushrooms, peppers, and carrots that’s flavored with a potent mixture of garlic, ginger, chilies, basil, and mint is added to the black rice, along with some lime juice and soy sauce. A quick peanut sauce is drizzled over the rice and the whole dish is topped with a generous amount of crispy shallots. This dish was a huge hit at our annual Christmas party—it may not be a traditional holiday dish, but I have a feeling that it may be making a reappearance next year.
Black Rice Shiitake Salad with Peanut Sauce
Serves 4-6 for lunch
1 ½ cups black rice
2 ½ cups water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 shallots, thinly sliced
8 oz. shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp minced ginger
1 Serrano chili, minced
3 tablespoons soy sauce
Juice of 1 lime
1 cup grated carrots
1 cup sliced red bell peppers
2 tablespoons chopped mint
1 tablespoon chopped basil
3 tablespoon salted, creamy peanut butter (the only ingredients should be peanuts and salt)
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon brown sugar
- In a small saucepan, combine the black rice and water and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 20-25 minutes, covered, until the water is absorbed. Take the pan off the heat and let sit for 10 minutes. Alternatively, you can cook the rice in a rice cooker.
- While the rice cooks, heat the oil in a nonstick skillet over high heat, and once very hot, add half of the shallots, tilting the pan so that the oil collects to one side and mostly covers the shallots. Fry the shallots until crisp, 2-3 minutes, then lift them out of the hot oil and let drain on paper towels. Add the rest of the shallots and repeat the frying process. Set the shallots aside, and turn the heat down to medium-high.
- From the remaining oil in the skillet, remove 2 teaspoons and set it aside in a small bowl. Add the shiitake mushrooms to the remainder of the oil in the pan, and sauté over medium-high heat until golden brown, 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, and serrano to the mushrooms and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the carrots and bell peppers and cook for another 2 minutes until the vegetables have just begun to soften. Take the pan off the heat and set aside.
- Add the soy sauce and lime juice to the bowl with the reserved oil and stir to combine. Take 2 tablespoons of the soy sauce mixture and add it to the mushrooms, along with the cooked rice, mint, and basil, and toss to combine.
- Take the remainder of the soy sauce mixture and whisk in the peanut butter, water, and brown sugar until smooth. Transfer the rice mixture to a platter, then drizzle with the peanut sauce. Top with the fried shallots and serve at room temperature.
Note: To make this dish gluten-free, use wheat free soy sauce.