A few summers ago, I spent a day in the Camargue, a part of France that had, for some reason, completely eluded my knowledge of the country. There are cowboys—French cowboys, who ride around on snowy white horseback in flat grasslands, herding (I had always thought that we Americans had the monopoly on cowboys)—and beautiful crystalline salts being dried out in the sun. Local restaurants serve stews made of the bulls herded down the grasslands.
That is where Camargue red rice comes from. I recently discovered Camarge red rice at the supermarket: It looks like grains of long-grain black rice merged with brown basmati rice, and turned a deep russet red. It has a chewy texture and a delicious mild but present flavor. I cook it as the French do, like pasta, in a huge pot of salted boiling water until it is al dente, and then I drain it in a colander. I am fanatic about rice, a simple food that I am content to eat simply, with just a pinch of that Camargue salt.
But sometimes it's worth gilding the lily, and for this salad I toss the rice with everything green: a lemony green parsley and olive oil sauce, little jewels of zucchini and haricots verts, slivers of green olives and walnuts, and shards of scallions and fresh raw spinach. It's so full of flavor, healthfulness, and texture that you can't help but love it. Serve it room temperature next to some roast chicken or charred whole fish, and you're in business.
You can find Camargue red rice online, but if you can't use it for whatever reason, try a wild rice blend or some forbidden black rice with this recipe.
- 2 cups Camargue red rice
- Kosher salt
- 1 medium zucchini, small dice
- 1 cup chopped haricots verts
- 1 1/2 cups flat leaf parsley
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Freshly cracked black pepper
- 2 scallions, finely sliced
- 40 French green olives, such as lucques or picholine, pitted and chopped
- 2 cups spinach, chiffonade
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
Boil the rice just as you would pasta, in a large pot of boiling salted water, for 30 minutes, or until it is tender, but still has a firm texture. Add the zucchini and haricots verts, and cook an additional 5 minutes. Drain the rice and vegetables together.
While the rice and vegetables are draining, roughly chop the parsley, and add it to the food processor with the olive oil and salt. Run the machine for 5 minutes, until you have a very green parsley oil. Add the lemon juice and some pepper, and then add all the sauce to the rice, along with the scallions, and toss well.
Leave the rice salad to cool completely to room temperature. Just before serving, toss in the olives, spinach, and walnuts. Serve at room temperature alongside poultry or fish, or as one of many vegetarian salads.