Grains can be a polarizing food, but whether you love them or hate them, we can all agree on one thing: boring grain dishes should be tossed out with the chaff. This week-long series is all about inventive, refreshing grain salads: full of flavor, and perfect for summer. If we have one basic goal here, it's to make believers out of naysayers, and give inspiration to those already converted.
Inspired by Thai grilled beef salad (neua nam tok), this salad replaces the meat with grilled vegetables and adds fragrant jasmine rice. It's loaded with fresh herbs and dressed with a bracing, fish sauce-spiked lime vinaigrette. Plus, because the vegetables are grilled, they give the salad a deeper, smoky flavor.
The vinaigrette is intentionally bold—an ingredient like rice has a way of soaking up flavors, so it can handle an assertive dressing. Does the fish sauce smell overwhelmingly pungent all on its own? You bet. But once it's incorporated into the mix, it lends an intoxicating, inoffensive depth and aroma that you won't want to miss.
If you want to add meat into this salad, go ahead and do so. Grilled chicken or beef would work beautifully. Pork is a no-brainer, too. Heck, even shrimp would work. Use a thin cut of meat that requires minimal cooking time, and toss it on the grill right before serving. Come to think of it, make an extra batch of vinaigrette and marinate the meat or shrimp in the refrigerator for an hour first.
As with any good salad, this one has a healthy blend of textures, in this case in the form of crumbled, toasted cashews. If you're making the salad in advance, wait to add them until just before serving.