In the days that follow a big holiday, the impulse to order takeout could be fierce, but I ask you to consider making this quick salad instead. It include a favorite of mine: instant brown rice. No amount of snobbery could make me love this whole-grain convenience product any less. It is a good-for-you fast food.
This recipe can teach you to do something different with frozen spinach, too. In some grocery stores, you can find bagged frozen spinach, not the kind that's sold in a frozen block. That's the best kind to use for this recipe, but both will suffice. Use a paper towel to wring all the moisture out of it your hand strength can muster, then spread the spinach on a baking sheet. Treat it to a pinch of Spanish smoked paprika and a little olive oil. In the time it takes for you to prep the other ingredients, the spinach will roast to darkened, barely recognizable bits that add crunch.
The salad has more crunch in the red onion, crisp red bell pepper and toasted nuts, plus fruit whose squeezed juice goes into a light vinaigrette. Toss in cubes of ham or smoked tofu ... or leftover turkey. But it's surprisingly filling, just as it is.
Brown Rice Salad With Crispy Spinach and Pecans
1/2 cup pecan halves
3 cups frozen spinach (bagged), thawed
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
Pinch sweet Spanish smoked paprika
2 cups water
2 cups instant brown rice (uncooked), such as Minute Rice brand
Kosher or sea salt
1/2 medium green or red bell pepper
1/4 medium red onion
2 scallions (optional)
1 large navel orange
4 stems parsley
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup golden raisins (optional)
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Spread the pecans on one half of a rimmed baking sheet. Wrap the spinach in paper towels and let it sit for 10 minutes, then wring out as much moisture as possible (over the bowl or in the sink; discard that liquid). Spread the dried spinach on the other half of the baking sheet, then drizzle it with the teaspoon of oil and season with a pinch of the smoked paprika, tossing to coat.
Meanwhile, bring the 2 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in the rice and a pinch of salt. Once the water returns to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, give it a stir, then cover and let sit for 5 minutes, or until the water is absorbed. Uncover and fluff with a fork.
Transfer the baking sheet to the oven; toast the nuts for 2 or 3 minutes, until lightly browned and fragrant. Transfer to a bowl to cool; return the spinach to the oven; continue to roast for another 15 minutes, until darkened and lightly crisped. You may need to stir it once or twice.
While the spinach is in the oven, cut the bell pepper into small dice. Cut the red onion into small dice. If using the scallions, trim, then cut them crosswise into thin slices. Peel the orange and cut it in half, then squeeze its juice into a bowl large enough to mix the salad in. Coarsely chop the remaining fruit. Coarsely chop the parsley leaves.
Whisk the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil, a good pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper into the juice in the bowl, to form a dressing. Add the cooked rice, pecans, bell pepper, chopped orange, parsley, red onion, the scallions, if using, most of the crisped spinach and the golden raisins, if using; toss until evenly coated and well incorporated.
Divide among wide shallow bowls, and scatter some of the remaining crisped spinach on each portion. Serve at room temperature. Serves 4.
— Adapted from a recipe by VanillaAndBean.com