This week we're sharing one of my favorite summer salad recipes which we call the "Barnhardt Summer Salad," named for my aunt, Carol Barnhardt, from Fairbanks, Alaska, who has made this salad at nearly every family gathering I've attended in the past 15 years.
The recipe was originally featured as "Black Bean and Rice Salad" in the August 1991 edition of Bon Appetit magazine, and we've made just a few minor adjustments to suit our own tastes over the years.
This recipe is a favorite for many reasons, including its colorful appearance, nutritional content and healthy benefits, but mostly because it's just so darn delicious.
I just love watching people's reaction upon taking a bite of this humble mix of rice and beans, including Forum photographer Dave Wallis, who gushed between mouthfuls, "Ohhh ... that's nothing like ... wow, I thought it would be so bland." (Thanks, Dave.)
"It's surprisingly crunchy," he said, "and way more flavorful than I expected."
Even though tasting our recipes is old-hat for Dave, I understand how he could think that a salad made from white rice and beans could be a little bland. And if it was just rice and beans, it would be. Fortunately, this nearly-perfect salad is rounded out by the addition of bell peppers, red onion, cilantro and a wonderfully flavorful orange vinaigrette.
The components of this dish are thoughtfully balanced, not only in flavor, but in size and texture, too. Long-grain rice has a lower starch content than short- or medium-grain, making it ideal for salads as the grains are drier and separate better.
Black beans are similar in length to the long grain rice and bring a lovely crunch to the mix. Size matters in this salad and should be considered when chopping the bell peppers and red onion, which should be small-diced into pieces no larger than the black bean. When done right, every ingredient will be able to easily fit onto one forkful.
For added flavor, the rice is cooked in chicken (or vegetable) stock with two bay leaves, which are removed before mixing in the salad ingredients. If it was up to our son, Giovanni, he'd stop right here and start eating, and you could, too, as this seasoned rice makes an excellent side dish.
The original recipe simply calls for all the ingredients to be mixed in with the rice until combined, but we like to prepare the vinaigrette separately which allows us to taste and adjust the acidity and seasoning as desired.
With rice and beans as the main stars of the dish, not only is this salad beautiful and delicious, but it is also low in fat, filling and nutritious. Rich in vitamin B1, fiber, protein, magnesium and antioxidants, this dish is a terrific energy booster and an excellent aid for good digestion.
This salad is perfect for large parties and summer barbecues and holds up well over several days when refrigerated. It is versatile enough to serve as a side dish with chicken, burgers, fish and pork, and is also a great addition in fish tacos and burritos.
Our Barnhardt Summer Salad has become a summertime staple in our household, and we hope you enjoy, too.
Barnhardt Black Bean and Rice Summer Salad
Serves: 12 to 16
Two 14 ½-ounce cans chicken broth
½ cup water
1 pound long-grain rice
2 bay leaves
Two 15-ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed
2 red bell peppers, small diced
1 green, orange or yellow bell pepper, small diced
1 medium red onion, small diced
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 medium jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped (optional)
Orange Vinaigrette ingredients:
¾ cup olive oil
¼ cup orange juice
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
Cook chicken broth and water in a large sauce pan or medium stock pot over high heat until boiling; add rice and bay leaves and return to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and continue cooking until liquid is fully absorbed into the rice, about 20 to 25 minutes.
Prepare the vinaigrette as the rice cooks. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, orange juice, vinegar, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper until emulsified; taste and adjust seasoning as desired.
Remove bay leaves. Transfer rice to a large bowl, add the vinaigrette and gently fluff with 2 forks to remove any clumps. Add the black beans, bell peppers, red onion, cilantro and jalapeno (if using) and lightly mix in with the forks to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.
For best results, cover and refrigerate for 1 hour before serving. Can be prepared up to 2 days in advance.
"Home With the Lost Italian" is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owns Sarello's in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 11-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at email@example.com.