I am turning 54 on Thursday and, as I am wont to do, I am planning to stretch the celebrations for as long as the calendar allows, in this case from Thursday to Sunday, and, over the weekend, I invited twelve special girlfriends to celebrate with me. Only, I realized that with all the plans I crammed into the four days, it would have been really hard to organize a proper party. So I turned it into a potluck – an American invention, I believe, and one that can go terribly awry.
My girlfriends, though, are smart and, before I knew it, emails were going back and forth in copy to the whole party, with specifics of what everybody would be contributing so nothing would double up or clash. Half of the guests are of Italian origins and I was not surprised to see that a rice salad would be on the menu.
Virtually unknown in this part of the world, a rice salad is as commonplace in Italy as potato salad is here, a party staple because versatile, easy to assemble and a crowd pleaser. And every cook can add her twists to it because pretty much everything can go in. This being America, I could conceive of “themed” rice salads”: Asian, Latin, Spanish, Vietnamese, just changing the ingredients accordingly.
You should view this recipe as a starting point: you can include chicken, beef, peppers, any pickles you like, carrots, tomatoes and on and on and omit what you don’t like. It can be made hours before the party and transported with ease. I like mine dressed with just oil and lemon but, this being America, a mayonnaise based dressing wouldn’t be amiss.
And what will I be making? Cake and cocktails, of course.
200 g Rice (Arborio or other risotto rice)
1 Thick slice of Gruyère, cubed
1 Thick slice of ham, diced
5 Salami slices, cut into strips
3 or 4 Hot dogs, fully cooked and sliced
1 Can of tuna
2 Pickles, sliced
50 g Pickled artichokes or mushrooms, chopped
A handful of radishes, sliced
1 T Capers
1 Fennel, chopped
Juice of one lemon
- Cook the rice in plenty of salted water until al dente.
- Add all the ingredients besides oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and toss.
- Prepare the vinaigrette in a small bowl, dress the salad and refrigerate until ready to serve.