A Bird in the Oven and Then Some author Mindy Fox writes that this Chicken and Rice Salad with Mint Pesto and Peas recipe is a wonderful salad to enjoy "in the last weeks of winter to summon the warm breezes of spring."
I made a bowl on a deceptively sunny day when outside temperatures were still hovering in the winter zone. The bright green mix of peas, pesto, mint, and basil makes you want to enjoy it al fresco, preferably as part of a picnic. But since picnics are still a few months away, a springy salad like this is second best.
Rice, peas, and shredded chicken are dressed with a fresh-tasting pea pesto that coats the salad in an elegant shade of green. It's a wonderful light lunch for the end of winter. I can only imagine how much better it will taste when spring peas and backyard herbs are in season.
As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of A Bird in the Oven and Then Some to give away this week.
- 1 1/2 cups frozen peas, thawed
- Good basic kitchen salt, for the water
- 1 3/4 cups water
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 cup white long-grain rice
- 2 cups packed fresh mint leaves, plus a small handful of leaves for garnishing
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 small garlic clove, peeled
- 1 1/2 cups small to medium shreds roast chicken
- 1 small cucumber, peeled, deseeded and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
- 3 scallions, thinly sliced on a long diagonal
Cook the peas in a small saucepan of boiling salted water for about 2 minutes until tender. Drain and set aside.
Bring the water, 1 tablespoon of the oil and 1/2 teaspoon of salt to the boil in a 2-quart saucepan, then stir in rice. Return to the boil and cover. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes until the water is absorbed and rice is tender. Fluff the rice with a fork and leave to stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Spread the rice on a baking sheet and leave to cool to room temperature.
For the pesto, put 1/2 cup of the peas, the mint, basil, cheese, pine nuts, lemon juice, garlic and fine sea salt in a food processor and process until smooth.
In a bowl, toss together the rice, remaining peas, pesto, chicken, cucumber and about two-thirds of the spring onions. Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with the remaining spring onions and mint leaves to garnish.