A few weeks ago I read one of Russ Parsons’ articles in the LA Times about how Rice Salads have gone out of style in recent years. I have to wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Parson that nowadays there are a variety of pasta salads at delis that are generally heavy. To that I have to add that after sitting for hours in the display fridge they don’t even look appetizing. As much as I LOVE anything related to pasta and noodles, I can’t say that I am a fan of pasta salads that are heavy and/or drenched in mayo.

I vividly remember the first time my mom made rice salad. I remember being baffled by the fact that rice was going to be consumed cold, in a salad. You see, this Persian girl up to that point had only had rice the Persian way, served as Chelow or in a Polow form.  All of my trepidation about my mom’s new culinary adventure disappeared as soon as I had the first spoonful of her Italian Rice Salad. I remember it being incredibly tasty and thinking how well all the ingredients came together to make a delicious light meal.

Fast forward a few years to one day when someone brought to my attention that I did something odd. That odd thing was topping my leftover rice with salad, after chowing down on whatever khoresht I was eating it with.  This is a habit that I still have. I absolutely love mixing my salad with rice and eating them together. There is something magical that happens when the rice is mixed with the salad dressing.

Mr. Parsons’ article inspired me to create a Persianize version of rice salad.  I didn’t have to think too hard or long. All I had to do was think about my favorite combination of rice and salad to mix together. The answer was easy: Salad Shirazi, of course!!

While I knew that my preference was Salad Shirazi, I did a couple variations just to test different flavors out.  In the end today’s recipe became a favorite. In the past three weeks I have had this salad many times including taking it to three potlucks. So far it has received many complements and thumbs up.  As my friend Romina suggested, this is great potluck, or picnic, item because it can sit out without the fear of going bad, like other salads tossed with mayo.

I have used Mr. Parsons’ cooking and drying rice technique for my recipe, which I find that it really made a difference. Once the salad is tossed, it’s best to allow it to sit for at least an hour before serving. Also, I found that using cherry tomatoes was a better option than regular tomatoes because the seeds don’t have to be removed. Additionally, using two different colors of tomatoes gives it a nice colorful look. Lastly, I used fresh mint because I have an abundance of mint in my garden.

Ingredients (Serves 6 to 8 )

1 1/2 cups Basmati rice
5 oz red cheery tomatoes
5 oz yellow cherry tomatoes
6 oz Persian cucumber
1/4 cup red onion, small diced
1/4 cup olive oil + 2 tbsp
1/2 cup mint
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tbsp + 1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Small chop mint. There should be the equivalent of 2 tablespoons once small chopped.

Place mint in the olive oil and set aside.

Bring 6 cups of water to a boil.  In the mean time wash rice 5 to 6 times until water runs clear.

Once the water comes to a boil add 1 tablespoon of salt.  Then add rice to water.

Cook rice for 13 to 14 minutes until it is cooked and firm but not over cooked and/or mushy.

Once the rice is cooked drain in a colander and rinse thoroughly with cold water. Allow for the water to drain.

Line a cookie sheet with a kitchen towel and spread the rice on it. Cover the rice with another kitchen towel and gently pat dry.

Cut red and yellow cherry tomatoes into four sections.

Small dice cucumbers roughly the same size as the diced tomatoes.

Small dice onion.

Place diced tomatoes (including juices), cucumbers, and onions in a large mixing bowl.

Add 1/4 cup juice of fresh lemons to the olive oil and mint. Season with salt and pepper. Mix well.

Toss the diced vegetables with  1/2 of dressing.

Add rice on top.

Add other half of dressing and gently mix well.

Add remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, adjust seasoning as needed, and gently toss again. Cover and allow to sit at room temperature 1 hour before serving. When ready to serve simply give it a quick mix and enjoy at room temperature.