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Party trick: rice salad, Italian style

Posted in Food & Entertaining

rice saladInviting guests to a birthday lunch and asking them, in the same sentence, to bring food is, well, a bit cheeky.

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.

cocktail-chic-vector-graphics_7522RECIPE – Serves 4

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
Olive Oil
Juice of one lemon
S+P

  • 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.

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22 Comments

  1. I’ve had salads with quinoa or couscous or pasta or various other things, but never with rice. I don’t think it’s common on menus here either. But, as a dish, it does make sense.

    July 8, 2016
    |Reply
  2. Ellie Toffolo
    Ellie Toffolo

    Have a Wonderful Birthday !!!!! Thinking of you (guess what we’re having for lunch today…….) and will toast your health and happiness with a suitable sparkling beverage. !!!

    July 7, 2016
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Thank you Ellie! Were you eating insalata di rise? With the heat you are experiencing, it would make sense!

      July 7, 2016
      |Reply
  3. Certainly an American version with hot dogs in it! My favorite rice salad is with sea food.

    July 7, 2016
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Not American at all! My mom used to make it with hot dogs or, rather, wurstel, as we used to call them! Well, with seafood it is a lot more refined.

      July 7, 2016
      |Reply
  4. I make a very similar one with orzo and add feta instead of Gruyere.

    July 7, 2016
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      I use orzo a lot too, to make cold salads.

      July 7, 2016
      |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Thank you! There will be cake. Will post the photos.

      July 7, 2016
      |Reply
  5. Happy Birthday, Campari Girl! Hope you have a great party.

    I love rice salad too. My mother used to make it for all our family get-togethers. She gave me the recipe but I only started making it after she died and it has since become my standard contribution to family get-togethers. It’s also vegetarian and includes mayonnaise, curry powder and raisins. I make it the day before to let the curry flavour sink into it a bit more.

    July 7, 2016
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      I love the curry touch! Thank you for the birthday wishes!

      July 7, 2016
      |Reply
  6. Happy Birthday – or as we say here in China ‘zhu ni shengri kuaile! 祝你 生日快乐!Enjoy the weekend.

    I was surprised to read that rice salads are not that common in California, in South Africa and the UK they are always a staple at a braai or on a buffet table – so versatile, so easy and everyone loves them.

    July 7, 2016
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Yes, it is strange because rice is an otherwise staple. I nearly made it to Beijing for my birthday…one of my best friends is there now, dancing in a contemporary dance show and invited me along. I thought long and hard but I have few other trips coming up. Oh well, next time.

      July 7, 2016
      |Reply
    • Val du Toit
      Val du Toit

      Happy birthday, Camparigirl. I’m a South African and know and love rice salad. Mine is also vegetarian and very simple. I use brown rice and cook an equal amount of brown lentils. Then I mix the two together and add a bit of onion and a pinch or two of curry powder and pour the vinaigrette over while still warm. Allow to cool. That’s it – and very popular, too.
      Herschelian, were you at Herschel Girl’s School in Cape Town? Super school, ddnt you think? I taught at Camps Bay.

      July 7, 2016
      |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Thank you Mark!

      July 7, 2016
      |Reply
  7. Winston moreton
    Winston moreton

    Divertite ☺

    July 7, 2016
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      We will. Planning a watermelon/strawberry vodka slushie. If successful, the recipe will follow.

      July 7, 2016
      |Reply
  8. Sounds delish; I’m going to make it a la vegetarian style but will keep the Gruyere because what doesn’t taste fabulous with that? 🙂
    BTW, ♪ღ♪Happy♪*★Birthday in advance☆♪ღ Hope your birthday week is grand!

    July 7, 2016
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      I make it wholly vegetarian, sometimes with tofu or seitan in it. Thank you for the birthday wishes – I will do my best to have tons of fun.

      July 7, 2016
      |Reply
  9. Love this idea! I’m always looking for something different to take that doesn’t have a million steps to it or will be a duplicate.

    July 7, 2016
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      I always wondered if it is so unknown here because people might find it a tad strange. I should make it and take it to a party. The problem is I am always asked to make cake….

      July 7, 2016
      |Reply

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