Saturday, October 19, 2013

Mexican #TheSaladBar...Featuring Chunky Mexican Brown Rice Salad with Cliantro-Lime Dressing

It's time for another monthly #TheSaladBar feature! This month's theme is Mexican salads, which is a very broad and versatile theme. I challenged members to come up with a main dish salad or a side salad the uses their favorite spicy Mexican flavors. As the weather turns cooler, salads may not be the first thing you think of...but salads are versatile enough that they can be made and enjoyed year-round by using seasonal ingredients and using your creativity. For this month's theme, I wanted to make a healthy and creative side salad that can be enjoyed cold or at room temperature. Enter my Chunky Brown Rice Salad with Cilantro-Lime Dressing! It has all of my favorite Mexican food flavors and is combined with healthy brown rice. This dish is veg-friendly and can be made vegan-friendly by removing the cheese and subbing in roasted poblano pepper and/or some beans. 
This recipe is ideal if you find yourself with leftover rice...or it can be a plan-ahead by cooking extra rice with dinner one evening. If you're in a I was...simply pick up a 2-cup package of shelf-stable cooked brown rice and use that! I added avocado, tomato, green onion, roasted corn and cheese to my rice...then tossed with a super-simple  homemade cilantro-lime vinaigrette. If you can get your hands on Mexican queso fresco, use that...but firm, mild feta works well too. That's what I used since I had some in my fridge. By using pre-cooked rice, this dish was assembled and ready to chill in about 20 minutes!

Chunky Mexican Rice Salad with Cilantro-Lime Dressing
a Weekend Gourmet Creation
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice
  • 1 Roma tomato, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 avocado, peeled and chopped
  • 3/4 cup diced queso fresco OR firm, mild feta [NOTE: I used Athenos block feta]
  • 2-3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup corn kernels
  • 1 tbs. olive oil
  • Dressing: juice of 2 small limes, 2 tbs. olive oil, 1 tsp. honey or agave, 1 tsp. dry OR 1 tbs. fresh cilantro, salt & pepper to taste.
Step 1: Add 1 tbs. olive oil to a non-stick skillet over med-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the corn kernels in an even layer. Cook until they are golden brown and smell nutty...stirring every few minutes. This will take about 10 minutes. While the corn is roasting, make the dressing by combining all ingredients in a small measuring cup and whisking. Set the dressing aside while the corn roasts and you chop the veggies.
Step 2: Add the cooked brown rice to a mixing bowl. Add the cheese, green onion, tomato and avocado. When the corn has roasted, add it to the bowl as well.
Step 3: Whisk the reserved dressing and pour on top. Mix with a sturdy spoon until the ingredients are thoroughly combined and have been coated with the dressing. You can serve immediately, but I think it tastes better when it's refrigerated for a few hours and sits at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving.
This healthy salad is filling, yet light...and the dressing ties all the flavors and textures together perfectly! Roasting the corn takes a few minutes, but the nutty flavor it provides works really nicely with the nutty brown rice. I served this salad as a side dish for grilled sausages, but it would also make a really nice light lunch. This one's a keeper, friends! I hope you'll click in the links below and check out the Mexican-themed recipes the rest of #TheSaladBar participants are sharing today.

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