Joni Woolf: Rice four ways for summer dining

Published 7:37 am Sunday, July 16, 2017

When I am thinking of side dishes that I might add to a summer menu featuring several fresh vegetables (corn, beans, peas, squash, tomatoes, eggplant), rice comes to mind more often than potatoes. This could date back to my childhood, when my mother prepared rice at least once or twice a week; she preferred rice to potatoes, and when she served it, it was always accompanied with some kind of gravy. Well, the following recipes do not call for gravy but all of them are tasty, nutritious and easy on the eye. I have prepared all except the Chilled Rice Salad; this recipe came in a cookbook called Caprial’s Seasonal Kitchen that was passed on to me by Publisher/Editor Beth Alston. Caprial Pence is a chef in the Pacific Northwest and this is one of her simpler recipes.
What sent me on this hunt was a hunger for Red Rice, sometimes called Savannah Rice and sometimes called Mexican or Spanish Rice. The hunt led me through several cookbooks; in the end I returned to the tried and true and share them here with you, along with Caprial’s delightful salad recipe.

Savannah Red Rice
6 slices bacon
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small green bell pepper, chopped
2 cups uncooked rice (basmati is good)
2 16 oz. cans crushed tomatoes (or four cups fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped)
1 can tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
Black pepper and Tabasco to taste
In large frying pan, cook bacon until crisp. Remove from pan, crumble and reserve. Saute onions and bell pepper in grease until tender. Add rice, tomatoes, tomato paste, bacon and seasoning. Cook on top of stove 10 minutes. Pour into large casserole dish that has been sprayed with Pam or rubbed with olive oil, cover tightly and bake at 350 degrees for one hour. (Note: this could also be cooked in Dutch oven on top of the stove at very low temperature for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit 20 minutes. I combined several recipes to make this my own.)

Mexican Rice (this is vegetarian: no meat)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup long-grain rice, uncooked
28 oz. can stewed tomatoes
½ medium sweet green pepper, chopped
½ medium sweet red pepper, chopped
2 teaspoons chili powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ cup water
In a large skillet, heat oil and add onion and rice. Saute for 5 minutes, or until onion is translucent and rice is evenly browned, stirring frequently. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Cover and simmer until rice is tender, approximately 30 minutes. Remove lid and continue cooking until liquid is absorbed. (This recipe comes from The Fire ’n Ice Cookbook.)

Artichoke-Rice Salad  (good on a summer day)
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup rice
¼ cup diced green onion
¼ cup sliced pimento-stuffed olives
2 6-oz. jars marinated artichoke hearts, sliced
½ cup mayonnaise
½ teaspoon curry powder or 1 teaspoon dill weed (I prefer the dill)
1 8-oz. can sliced water chestnuts, drained
Bring chicken broth to boil; stir in rice. Simmer, covered, until done (15-20 minutes). Cool slightly. Combine with remaining ingredients; chill thoroughly. A nice luncheon salad, this recipe came from the Macon Magazine food writer for many years, the late Louise Dodd, and was published in her 2004 cookbook, Eating from the White House to the Jailhouse.

Chilled Rice Salad with Sherry Vinaigrette
¼ cup sherry wine vinegar
2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 shallots, finely chopped
¼ cup dry sherry
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2/3 cup vegetable oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 bunch opal basil, finely chopped (Opal basil is much like sweet basil that we grow easily; it has a purplish color and a stronger anise flavor.)
2 cups cooked long-grain rice
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 bunch scallions, cut diagonally (use a mix of the green and white portions)
1 bunch radishes, thinly sliced
To make the vinaigrette: Place vinegar, mustard, garlic, shallots and sherry in a medium-size metal bowl. Slowly whisk in oils, one at a time, making sure that the dressing is emulsifying. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the basil. Reserve. This dressing keeps in the refrigerator up to two weeks.
To make the salad: Place cooked rice in a medium-size bowl, add julienned peppers, green onions and radishes. Mix well. Add sherry vinaigrette and toss, making sure to coat the rice thoroughly. Cool until ready to serve.

Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at