I have a confession to make, dear readers. I do not admit to it easily. But for a while now, longer than I care to say, I’ve had a culinary crush on Yotam Ottolenghi. And rather than dissipating with the passage of time, my feelings grow more intense as each of his new recipes appears. But don’t worry. My Paulo isn’t jealous. He seems quite content to consume the evidence of my gustatory flirtations.
I’ve heard Ottolenghi’s cooking labelled fusion. That description makes me cringe. It seems to denote a cook/chef who takes two wildly different cuisines, and mangles them into a concoction that to some people seems quite clever. Ottolenghi’s creations are nothing like that. He is influenced by numerous cuisines, true, using the best of their techniques and ingredients. But what he creates is truly unique- elegant amalgamations all their own. An original cuisine that is like none other. And not only is his food fantastic, but for the most part it is incredibly good for you. Sigh.
This recipe is the latest of his that I have tried. It is simple, fresh, and lovely. The crunch of the peppers and peanuts counterpoints the softness of the rice, the herbs add fresh green fragrance, while the lemon and chile create an edge that is sweetened by the mango. Paulo and I ate this on the patio with grilled fish and a chilled vin gris, while the sun shone low in the west (as you can see in the photo).
Ottolenghi provided an excellent recipe, but I couldn’t quite leave it alone. As with any food, I tinkered, and tinkered. A deletion to make the salad vegan-friendly. The addition of the dried coconut to the hot rice so that it rehydrates slightly. A little more lemon, a few more herbs, and onions, more green onions, to counterbalance an additional mango. The salad as it stands is relatively quick to make. You must cook the two types of rice separately, but while they are simmering, you can do all of the other prep work in a matter of minutes. Once that is done, everything get jumbled together quickly. And you suddenly will find yourself with a gorgeous salad.
Coconut Rice Salad with Mango
2/3 cup jasmine rice
1 cup Thai basil
1 cup red or pink rice
2/3 cup shredded coconut (unsweetened)
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/4 cup mint leaves, chopped
1 cup cilantro, chopped
6 green onions, thinly sliced
1 hot chile, finely diced
2 mangoes, peeled, diced
the zest and juice of 2 lemons
2 T oil
1/2 cup roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
Put the jasmine rice in a saucepan with 1 cup of water, a little salt, and half of the Thai basil (still attached to the stems). Cover and bring to a boil, then turn the heat to low and barely simmer for about 15 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed. Remove the basil. At the same time put the red rice in another pan with plenty of salted water, bring to a boil, then simmer until the rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Drain the excess water. Combine both rices while still warm with the coconut. Set aside to cool.
Remove the other half of the Thai basil leaves from the stems and slice. When the rice has cooled to room temperature, add all remaining ingredients and toss to mix. Season well with salt and pepper. The salad is delicious immediately after preparation, but the flavors continue to meld nicely after sitting in the refrigerator for a while.