Rice based salads make a great summer’s day lunch: easy to put together, refreshing and and nutritious. And not just summer, its warming on a chill winter evening and just right when its pouring with rain. The Brown Rice Salad with Roasted Tomatoes and Asparagus that I made last week was delicious and everyone at home loved it. It is a versatile salad and you could make it with vegetables of your choice.
I like to add roasted tomatoes to salads as the roasting brings out the flavours of the tomatoes. A few spears of asparagus roasted with the tomatoes, added colour and texture to the Salad.
Rice is now becoming my go to for a robust and healthy meal without too much effort to make and I have been experimenting with different types of rice. You will be seeing the results of these experiments in the Healthy Rice Salad series that I’m now writing, the Brown Rice Salad with Roasted Tomatoes and Asparagus being the first one in the series.
Actually it is the second, as I have this recipe for a really gorgeous Black Rice Salad with Cranberry & Orange Dressing, elsewhere on the blog. This is the link to the recipe Black Rice Salad if you want to check it out.
In my bid to reduce weight and to manage sugar levels, I have greatly reduced my intake of rice – from twice a day to once or twice a week. And instead of the regular white rice which was part of my diet for so many decades, even the occasional rice dish that I make is with brown or black rice. Brown rice gives itself easily to the flavours of the vegetables that you add to them, without overpowering the other flavours with their personality.
How to cook Brown Rice?
Brown rice takes more time to be cooked than white rice. It has to be cooked correctly so that the grains are soft and yet separate without becoming a gooey mush. My daughter Lakshmi whom I am presently visiting at Connecticut, USA, suggested that I spread the hot cooked rice on a plate so that it cools down before being added to the salad, and the grains don’t get sticky and clumped together.
I prefer long grained brown rice as they cook well into separate grains. Soaking the grain before cooking reduces cooking time and also improves the nutritional values. I soak the rice for about 45 minutes before cooking it, and then allow it to cook for about 30 minutes till it is just done without being soggy and all the water has been absorbed. More details are given in the recipe below.
Long grained brown rice is better for salads as short grained ones get more mushy. Cooking times and methods below are for long grained rice. Cooking times also assume that the tomatoes are roasted at the same time that the rice is cooking.
Health Benefits in Brown Rice Salad with Roasted Tomatoes and Asparagus
This Salad is almost bursting with both taste and nutrition.
Brown Rice itself is an unpolished rice grain and therefore holds the nutritious benefits of rice which we lose to a significant extent with the milled polished white version which looks so good on our tables. It helps reduce obesity and contains manganese which helps to synthesise body fats.
Brown rice contains antioxidant enzymes which helps to increase HDL cholesterol (the ‘good’ cholesterol). It has a high fibre content as well as contains various essential minerals as well as important vitamins and proteins. It is rich in folate which is required by pregnant women.
Brown rice has a low glycemic index which helps in controlling blood sugar levels. It helps in maintaining cholesterol levels. It contains strong antioxidants which can maintain cardiovascular health.
It is a superfood and the list of health benefits and diseases it can act against is long: it helps to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, amnesia and dementia, helps in maintaining the health of lactating mothers, maintaining digestion, helps in anti-depression, helps to maintain bone health and immunity as well as in reducing insomnia.
Here is a link to an article that I found interesting, on the presence of arsenic in brown rice, and how rinsing and cooking in a lot of water, like pasta, can reduce the arsenic content.
Fighting Cancer: Brown rice helps in the fight against cancer, with its powerful antioxidants and the high fibre content, and is said to be effective in the prevention of colon cancer, breast cancer and leukaemia.
Tomatoes are rich in Vitamin C and other antioxidants which can help combat the formation of free radicals known to cause cancer. The lycopene in tomatoes is thought to be effective in lowering the incidence of Prostate cancer, while the beta carotene is believed to protect against Prostate cancer in younger men.
Diets rich in tomatoes may give a lower risk of certain types of cancer, especially cancers of the prostate, lung, and stomach. The potassium in tomatoes is believed to help in controlling blood pressure. The fiber, potassium, vitamin C and choline content in tomatoes all support heart health and the high fibre can be helpful in controlling blood sugar. One cup of cherry tomatoes contains about 2 gms of fibre.
For a delicious and refreshing summer lunch, try out this Brown Rice Salad with Roasted Tomatoes and Asparagus and do let me know how you liked it.
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Brown Rice Salad with Roasted Tomatoes and Asparagus
To Roast Tomatoes and Asparagus
- 2 cups Tomatoes sliced
- 10 stalks asparagus
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/2 tablespoon olive oil - or sunflower oil
- 1 teaspoon sugar - I used brown sugar, but any sugar would be fine
To Cook Brown Rice
- 1 cup Brown Rice - Long grained (quantity will increase after soaking)
- 1.25 cups water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt - or to taste
- 1 tablespoon olive oil - or sunflower oil
- 1/2 cup Onions - sliced
- 1/4 cup Spring Onions - scallions sliced -greens and whites separated
- 1 cup Cherry tomatoes - halved
To make the Dressing
- 1 tablespoon Fresh lemon juice
- 1 chilli - sliced fresh chilli
- 1/4 teaspoon salt - or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper - freshly ground
- 2 cups lettuce shredded - or other salad greens - optional
How to Cook Brown Rice
- Brown rice cooks faster when pre-soaked. Soaking also helps the mineral nutrients in the rice to be better absorbed during digestion. Rinse and drain the rice 2-3 times, add 2 cups of water, and set aside for about 45 minutes. Soaking overnight would further reduce cooking time to about 20 minutes.
- After soaking the rice as above, drain. Meanwhile bring 11/4 cups of water to boil, add salt. Add the soaked rice to the boiling water. When it begins to boil again, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for about 30 minutes. As cooking times can differ, after 20 minutes keep checking to see if the rice is done and all the water has been absorbed. Remove the pan from the stove so that it stops cooking, cover and set aside.
- Remover the rice from the pan, spread it out on a plate to cool and for the grains of rice not to stick together
How to Roast Tomatoes and Asparagus
- While the rice is soaking, pre-heat the oven to 425F (about 220 C). Snap off the thick stalks of the asparagus. Slice the tomatoes into large chunks and sprinkle them with sugar. Sprinkle olive oil on the tomatoes, asparagus and garlic
- Arrange the tomatoes cut side down on a baking sheet, leaving some space between each slice. Place the garlic on the sheet. Place the asparagus on a separate sheet.
- Bake for 15 minutes and then remove the asparagus. Immediately transfer the asparagus to a bowl so that it stops baking in the heat of the sheet. Slice the asparagus to one inch pieces. Increase oven heat to 450 F (about 230C) and roast the tomatoes for another 15 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.
How to Prepare the Other ingredients
- Heat the oil in a pan. Add onions and sauté till translucent, about 2 minutes. Peel and add the roasted garlic. Add the sliced white part of the scallions (spring onions), sauté for one minute (set the scallion greens aside for use while mixing the salad)
- Add the cherry tomato slices, sauté for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and transfer to a bowl.
How to mix the salad dressing
- Add the sliced chilli to the fresh lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and whisk the seasonings in.
How to Make Brown Rice Salad with Roasted Tomatoes and Asparagus
- On each serving plate, add a portion of rice, some salad greens torn into bite sized pieces, some roasted tomato, sliced asparagus, scallion greens. Or use an interesting sauce like the Sesame Ginger Teriyaki Sauce that I used, it gives another zing to the Salad!
- Add some of the sautéed onion and cherry tomato mixture. Drizzle with the dressing and serve.