In my book, summers are for slowing down, letting warm beachside breezes melt over you like glistening honey or swinging lazily cocooned in a hammock under a shady grove of alder trees. I was born in July, what I consider the peak of summer. Bomb pop popsicles, fire flies, watermelon, and 4th of July picnics. There could be no better backdrop to celebrate my coming into this world. The pace of things slows and mingles with an ebb and flow of people remembering when they got in the car for those family road trips, perhaps creating similar, new memories of their own. There is a glow of happiness, an expectation, that with the change of season, good times and good memories will be formed. Summer gives us permission to come alive again and everything that is old is new and everything we eat is the best thing we’ve ever tasted.
In this part of the world, if you haven’t gotten your hands stained from the sweet, Merlot juices of Washington’s Bing cherries, you’re not doing it right. July is cherry season, and cherries, or the crown jewels of stone fruit in my opinion, get put on parade like Miss America, front and center at every supermarket and farmer’s market stand, their shiny facades tempting you with that come hither look. You’re a fool if you try to resist.
Besides enjoying a beautiful bowlful of cherries au naturel, with a little finesse, cherries can be wonderful addition to other things we enjoy this time of year. I decided to try my hand at creating a new summertime salad that would not only be a sight to behold at your next outdoor gathering, but one that would be loaded with grains and greens in a way most salad haters would find hard to resist. I know, I’m unabashedly one of those people. This recipe for Cherry, Chard and Brown Rice Salad does have a few steps that require some time and patience, but it’s summer so if you need an excuse to slow down, let it be while you smell, taste and nibble on all the delicious ingredients that go into making this recipe. After all, what good is the best food we’ve ever tasted, if we can’t be still enough to really enjoy it?
- 2 cups long grain brown rice
- 2 cups vegetable stock
- 2 cups cold water
- 2 Tablespoons canola oil
- 2 cups Bing cherries, pitted and quartered
- 3 cups Swiss chard, chopped
- 1 pack of fresh mint, chopped
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 1/4 cup unsalted cashews
- 1/4 cup honey
- 3 Tablespoons water
- 1 Tablespoon sesame seeds
- salt and pepper to taste
- Rinse brown rice in a strainer. Place in a small stockpot with vegetable stock and water and cover with a lid. Bring to a boil over high heat, then turn to low and simmer for 30 minutes or until rice has expanded and is still slightly chewy. Return to strainer and rinse. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- In a small skillet, over medium high heat, toast cashews until just lightly golden. Turn heat down to medium and add honey and water and swirl in the pan until liquid nearly evaporates. Be careful not to burn cashews. Spread onto parchment paper and sprinkle with sesame seeds and a pinch of salt.
- Pit and chop cherries, remove stems from chard and cut into strips, and chop parsley and mint.
- When rice has cooled, toss with remaining tablespoon of canola oil, cherries, chard, parsley and mint. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with honey-sesame cashews.
This salad is best served chilled as it allows all the flavors to blend. You could also add a squeeze of your favorite citrus juice (lemon, grapefruit, orange) for a little acidity.