Forbidden Beet Salad
Before living in Thailand, I had never really given rice much of a thought. Sure, it’s a grain. Yeah, it’s hearty. And yep, it adds a nice carbohydrate to the dinner plate – but whatever, it’s rice. Boring.
Rice in Thailand, and most other parts of Asia, is not boring – it’s a life force. Rice is interwoven through Asian culture, especially in the rural communities who grow this life giving grain and are literally interwoven within rice paddies. In Asia, especially rural Thailand – community, connections, and culture are shaped around a tiny grain. Backpackers and travelers to Asia, like myself, find that rice is omnipresent at all meals, and at all times. Rice comes cheap in the form of fried rice, rice cakes, sweet sticky rice, rice noodles, rice paper wraps, rice soup, and more. You really can’t venture to Asia without experiencing rice in every way possible and in every place possible.
My Asian travels not only gave me a newfound love and appreciation for rice, but it also helped me to discover how versatile that tiny grain could be. Who knew rice could be prepared so many ways, and come in so many varieties? Definitely not this tall blonde girl, who stuck out like a sore thumb among the regulars of the Thai night markets.
One such variety of rice is black rice, also known as forbidden rice. Why forbidden? Apparently, this grain was cultivated in small amounts and only eaten by the Emperor of China – who banned it from the consumption of everyone else. While no longer forbidden, black rice is still a bit of a rarity in supermarkets, but you’ll be sure to find some at your local health store or online. Black rice is noted for its impressive array of health goodness, especially for its free radical damaging antioxidants. Like darkly colored fruits such as blueberries and blackberries, the dark color in black rice is attributed to its powerful antioxidants. Black rice is also filled with protein, iron, and fiber too – much, much, much more than standard and boring white rice.
Once I returned from adventuring and teaching in Asia, I started putting rice in everything – I guess you could say I missed my daily staple. No dish was safe from the powers of complex carbohydrates in my kitchen. One of my favorite ways to incorporate extra plant protein and fiber in salads was to add rice. A play off Asian tastes turned into this delectable beet salad, and it’s been one of my favorite ways to use black rice since. Seasonal and radiantly colored beets are sliced paper thin and added to a base of shelled edamame, bright cilantro, and refreshing cucumber. Everything is garnished with creamy avocado, green onions, sesame seeds, and a drizzle of delicious ginger and tamari dressing. It’s full of sweet, salty, earthy, and refreshing flavors and is an ideal way to use black rice and heaps of veggies in your kitchen.
Antioxidant rich black rice + radiant beets + refreshing cucumber + fresh cilantro + creamy avocado + tamari and ginger dressing = delectable and rice filled Forbidden Beet Salad.
Forbidden Beet Salad
Serves 2 as a main dish, 4 as a side dish
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
Juice of 1 lime (about 4 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
1 tablespoon raw honey
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 cup forbidden black rice
2 large beetroots, sliced paper thin and halved
½ cucumber, sliced paper thin
¼ cup shelled edamame
¼ cup cilantro, roughly chopped
Handful of chopped green onion
1 avocado, sliced
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
Begin by preparing your black rice. Place 1 cup uncooked rice with 1 ¾ cups water in a small pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook 45-55 minutes, or until rice has absorbed all water. Let rice cool to room temperature, or chilled. Note, 1 cup uncooked rice will render about 3 cups cooked rice. For this recipe, you’ll only need about 1 ½ cups of the rice. Extra rice will keep in the refrigerator for 4-5 days.
Prepare the dressing next. Place all ingredients in a small jar, cover, and shake to thoroughly combine. Set aside.
Begin to assemble the remaining salad ingredients. Using a mandolin, vegetable peeler, or sharp knife, slice the beets and cucumber paper-thin. If beets are too large after slicing, quarter or half them. The thinner the beets, the better!
In a large bowl add 1 ½ cups cooked black rice, sliced beets, cucumber, edamame, green onions, avocado and cilantro. Drizzle with dressing and toss to combine. Serve and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Enjoy!