Sometime between when I left for San Antonio and now, the grass is green again. It’s like I blinked and the ground came alive. I noticed this while Cookie and I were on a nice long walk after work today. While she tried to chase after every bird and squirrel in sight, steering me around like a bumblebee on a string, I observed the springtime show. Cheery yellow daffodils have popped up to say hello, and ordinarily humble forsythia is putting on a show with its graceful, arching golden branches. Spring is here!
I really love going on walks with Cookie, my tireless companion. Before I had a dog, I zoomed around on my bicycle for exercise, which I still love doing, but everything looks different at a slow pace. I notice things I probably wouldn’t if I were biking, and would definitely miss while driving. I get some of my best ideas while we’re walking, and I composed this post in my head while we were out earlier.
I’ve realized that I love food photography for a similar reason. Cooking takes longer when I have to pause and snap photos; it forces me to slow down and find the beauty in the steps and ingredients. I notice and appreciate the subtle striping on a green onion stalk, for instance, and the delicate bend in leaves of watercress. Food photography makes me stop and smell the roses, if you will.
I adapted this pretty salad from a recipe I learned at an Asian seafood cooking class last month. Chef Forster created it as a side salad for salmon, but I turned it into a more filling dish by adding forbidden rice and edamame. He added chopped celery for fun since celery is new in Asia and booming in popularity. Celery! A novelty! Who knew?! While I generally skip celery sticks on those boring, ubiquitous veggie platters, I feel that chopped celery is totally underrated in salads. It adds such a great crunch and flavor to mixed salads like this one (and this one).
This salad is light and refreshing, crisp and tender and crunchy all at once. The predominantly green colors are broken up by chopped orange bell pepper, which seems just right for this time of year even though bell peppers are out of season. My pale legs are out of season, too, but that didn’t stop me from striding along in short shorts today. Oh who am I kidding, my legs are a perpetual shade of pale.
- 1 inch nub of ginger, grated or finely chopped (grate it on a Microplane and you won’t have to peel it!)
- 3 cloves garlic, pressed
- 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- ¼ cup quality peanut oil, olive oil or vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- 2½ teaspoons reduced-sodium tamari or soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon agave nectar
- big pinch red pepper flakes
- 1 big bunch watercress, very roughly chopped
- 1 yellow or orange bell pepper, chopped
- 2 to 3 stalks of celery, thinly sliced and roughly chopped
- ¼ cup green onion, chopped (include both white and green parts)
- 1½ cups shelled edamame (I used frozen)
- 1½ cups cooked forbidden rice or wild rice (use ¾ cup rice to 1½ cup water)
- Make the dressing by whisking the ingredients together well, and set it aside. Make the dressing in advance (preferably an hour or more, but at least as soon as you start cooking your rice) in order to give the garlic and ginger time to bloom.
- Rinse the rice in a mesh colander and then cook it in a rice cooker, according to your manufacturer’s instructions and the volumes given above. Alternatively, you can cook it on the stove. Pour 1½ cups of water into a pot and bring it a boil over high heat. Rinse the rice, then add it to the pan. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and let it cook until all water is absorbed (35-40 minutes). If it gets too dry, add a splash or more of water as necessary. Fluff with a fork and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
- Cook the edamame. Bring a pot of water to a boil and pour in frozen edamame. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the edamame is warmed through, about 4 to 5 minutes. Drain, and set the edamame aside to cool.
- Toss all of the prepared produce in a big bowl. Once the edamame and rice have cooled, add them to the bowl and toss. Whisk your dressing one more time and pour into the bowl, and toss well. Serve at room temperature or chilled.
- Inspired by and adapted from Chef Bill Forster's cooking class.
- Serves 3 to 4 as a light main dish or 6 as a side.
- Stored in the refrigerator, this salad will last for one to two days.
- I erroneously called the rice I used wild rice. It’s actually forbidden rice, but I think wild rice would be lovely as well.