Black Rice Salad

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Our biblestudy group gathered last Monday to celebrate the Passover. A meal rich with symbolism for Jews and Christians alike, it was a lovely time of slowing down and hallowing a moment, a memory. The lamb slain to spare the son, bitter herbs and bread eaten in a hurry because freedom was in the air. The Passover is a story of desperation and death, liberation and life.

As ours was a merging of Jewish and Christian stories and traditions, we didn’t follow either the Exodus menu or modern Jewish dictates strictly. Our host asked for a non-green salad and we had black rice in the cupboard and so this salad was born. Feel free to vary ingredients to suit your tastes – I was quite pleased with the overall effect though!

225g black rice
1 1/2 large kumera
1 large egg plant
a little olive oil and some salt
1/2 bunch of watercress
1 big handful of baby spinach leaves
1 big handful of mixed lettuce leaves
2 spring onions
1 bunch of broccolini
1 bunch of asparagus
1 handful of parsley

Dressing
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/2-1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic

Method:
1. Cook the black rice as per the instructions on the packet or using a rice cooker (I used the ‘brown rice’ setting which worked quite well).
2. Chop the kumera into rough 2-3cm cubes, toss in olive oil and lay out on a baking-paper-lined-tray, bake at  200oC for 25-35 mins or till golden brown. Allow to cool.
3. Slice the eggplant and layout on another baking-paper-lined-tray, sprinkle with salt and allow to sit for 15-20mins (allowing the water to begin being drawn out). Bake at 200oC for 20-30 minutes, or till soft with golden edges. Allow to cool.
4. Snap the ends off the asparagus (holding the base, ‘snap’ it off, this means that the tough bottom part of the stem will be removed, the rest of the stem is more tender, and nicer to eat) and chop off the base of the broccolini and slice each ‘branch’ into three portions. Steam both till tender. Refrigerate to cool the vegetables quickly.
5. Chop the watercress and toss with the spinach and lettuce.
6. Finely chop the spring onion (or shallots) and parsley.
7. Assemble the salad; layer the tossed leaves with cooled rice, potato and eggplant, asparagus and broccolini. Top with shallots and parsley.
8. Make the dressing by mixing all ingredients together; altering the seasoning to taste. Dress just before serving.

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Japanese inspired Salad (with sprinkle onigiri on the side!)

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Trying to include more protein into a diet that also features carbohydrates and lots of vegetables in a creative way was the challenge for this evening. Conscious of both environmental and health concerns, I try to balance our need for protein-rich food with health concerns regarding the consumption of too much meat. Add to this issue the price of meat – both the monetary cost (which affects us), the environmental cost (which affects the larger world: it takes far more energy to raise animals that it does grain crops), and the concerns about food equity and distribution (which affects others: poorer people tending not to be able to access enough food, while richer ones have energy dense animal food at their finger tips) and shopping and planning for food can become somewhat overwhelming! This dinner has a little of everything, and, to top it all off, was very tasty!

Ingredients:
Salad ~
lettuce leaves (ideally small iceberg or something that ‘cups’)
English/baby spinach leaves (finely sliced)
red capsicum (chopped into a smallish dice)
Lebanese cucumber (chopped in half lengthways and then into little semi-circles)
fresh beetroot (grated)
broccoli or brocolini (blanched and refreshed very briefly)
coriander (roughly chopped)
shallots or green onions (finely chopped)
canned pink salmon (mashed with a fork)

Dressing ~
2-3 tbsp soy sauce (30-45ml)
2-3 tbsp rice wine vinegar (30-45ml)
1 tbsp light flavoured oil (e.g. peanut, sunflower) (15ml)
1 tsp sugar
1-2 tbsp finely chopped shallots or green onions

Onigiri ~
equal parts medium grain Japanese rice and water
your favourite rice sprinkle (found in Asian groceries)
a tiny bit of salt

Method:
1. Layer the vegetables inside the lettuce leaves, finishing off with salmon, onion and coriander – try to be conscious of making the salad look attractive as you arrange this!
2. Combine all the ingredients for the dressing in a small jar, shake to combine and check for taste, adjust as desired. Pour over the lettuce salad cups.
3. Cook the rice as per the instructions for the rice cooker, when its done allow to cool slightly before beginning to make the onigiri. Add the sprinkle to the rice and fluff the rice. Wet your hands just a little, salt them lightly and then shape the rice using the palm of your hands and your fingers to create the triangle shape.
4. Enjoy this fresh and delicious dish!

 

Bento Boxes

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A Japanese pantry

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Starting the vegetable and cheese prep!

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Making onigiri

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Asher’s Bento (with extra rice and flavoured with sprinkle)

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Ange’s Bento

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Mine!

With a friend who is half-Japanese to guide us, Asher and I spent a happy afternoon exploring the world of bento boxes in the holidays. Bento boxes are probably one of the best examples of playing with your food I’ve ever come across and they seem to delight people of all ages! Bento boxes are Japanese inspired lunch boxes filled with vegetables, eggs, a little cheese and ham along with sea weed and rice dishes. More elaborate ones include cooked dishes and oven are carefully arranged and constructed to mimic animals and characters or cute shapes and landscapes. With help from the expert we learned to make onigiri filled with salmon (or shaped creatively), experimented with rolling ingredients in nori and used cutters to make decorative salads. The experience was so fun (and tasty) that we decided to invest in a rice maker for ourselves which arrived a few weeks ago and has been used several times since! Stay tuned for more creative rice adventures!