French Style Rice Salad: Mark Bittman Recipe Demo, Vegan, Vegetarian Salad Recipe

An elegant basic salad with a world of potential: this recipe comes from Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.” In this book, he includes a chart of a dozen variations of rice salad. Here I’m showing one variation, but I’m highly intrigued with his extensive options. His book is done really well, so I encourage you to consider getting it.

3-4 cups cooked rice, cooled
2 tablespoons minced shallots
5ish radishes, sliced or diced
1 cup chopped cooked green beans (preferably haricot verts)
.25 – .5 cup vinaigrette, with extra virgin olive oil & vinegar as needed
.5 cup chopped fresh parsley
salt and freshly ground pepper

.5 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons white wine or sherry vinegar (red wine vinegar is fine, too)
1 large shallot, chopped in large chunks
1 heaping teaspoon (or more) of dijon or whole grain mustard

The only downside to this recipe is the amount of time it takes for the rice to cool down after you’ve cooked it. But otherwise you have lots of opportunity to cook and prep hours, if not days, beforehand and make a final assembly right before serving.

So we’ll start with cooking 3-4 cups of rice. I’m using long grain white rice – actually this is probably Basmati rice. I’m boiling four cups of water, then adding two cups of the rice. Gently stir to detach any rice that may want to stick to the bottom. Bring it back up to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Then cover and leave for 18 minutes. After 18 minutes, stir again and transfer to a large bowl to cool in the refrigerator.

To make this French style, chop two tablespoons of shallots, which can be as chunky or as minced as you like, and a handful of radishes, again to your preferred consistency. You can slice them or dice them. We’re also using 1 cup of chopped cooked green beans. To cut down on my prep time, I bought a bag of frozen chopped green beans. Let them thaw, squeeze the water out, and pour the thawed green beans into the salad.

For the vinaigrette, it’s very helpful to have an immersion blender here, although a regular blender is just fine. Like the rice salad itself there are many variations on a basic vinaigrette. Here I’m going to make a mustard vinaigrette variation. We will emulsify together half a cup of olive oil, three tablespoons of a good wine vinegar (here I’m using red wine vinegar but you should also consider white wine or Sherry vinegar). Add salt, freshly ground pepper, and a large shallot cut into chunks.

Bittman’s French style variation of the salad also calls for two tablespoons of fresh tarragon, which is a flavor I’m not used to. Tarragon is quite sweet, so if you can find it, it’s worth trying. But if not, your vinaigrette is just fine without it. Since I’m not adjusted to the tarragon flavor, I should have used less and gradually added more until I found a place I was comfortable. Once I blended this all together, I added some Dijon mustard. The tarragon was still slightly overwhelming. So I added more mustard to balance it out. Be sure to taste it as you go along.

Once the rice is fully cooled, throw in all your vegetables with the rice and start stirring. Mix the dressing in a little at a time and taste as you go along. You want to find a point where the salad & the dressing are equal in flavor. If at any point it tastes out of balance, meaning, you notice one flavor more than the other, then you have the chance to add more mustard or more oil to bring it to a point where you can enjoy it. In fact I still wasn’t pleased with the end result, so after the salad rested in the fridge overnight, I whisked together more mustard and oil and added it to the finished product.

It’s a bit of freestyling here and this experience will build your confidence in learning your taste. Anytime you season something to taste, especially with unfamiliar ingredients like tarragon, start with less than a recipe calls for and taste it each time you add more. Flavors should blend well together – there shouldn’t be an overwhelmingly obvious flavor in the dish. There are exceptions to this rule, but in this rice salad there is no star of the show.

Bittman recommends letting the salad come to room temperature before serving, just to take the chill off. This is a clever dish to sneak in extra vegetables you or your family might not normally eat. I think you’ll enjoy the flexibility of the rice salad variations in this book. They will serve you well during spring and summer.

I’m a certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and I help people eat more vegetables through my cooking companion videos.

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