Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Tomato Rice Salad with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette

I am guessing the title of this recipe grabbed some of you carnivores straight away because the magic word "bacon" caught your eye. I'm with you. I was daydreaming the other day about a BLT I had at the height of Minnesota summer at my good friend's Eric and Burt's house. Beautiful red oak leaf lettuce, juicy heirloom tomato slices, rich mayonnaise, and thick-cut bacon were all sandwiched between two slices of toasted WHITE bread. I hadn't had a BLT in years and man, it was incredible.

While daydreaming of bacon sandwiches, I gave the pantry a staredown trying to come up with something for lunch. I eventually pulled out brown rice and dates thinking I would make some sort of Morroccan-flavored salad. However, when I peered into the fridge I quickly scooped up some plump grape tomatoes, a big bunch of bright green basil, some creamy Australian chevre and a lone slice of bacon.

I know the dates and tomatoes sound like a strange match but really, the two different types of sweetness really plays off each other well. If you want to go through the trouble, the extra depth of flavor that occurs when the tomatoes are roasted is quite good. Otherwise, toss them into the salad fresh.

For 4 servings:
  • 3/4 cup uncooked long grain brown rice
  • 16 ounces (500 grams) grape tomatoes
  • 1 cup roughly chopped basil
  • 1/4 cup chopped bacon
  • 3/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup slivered dates
  • 1/4 cup crumbled chevre
If roasting the tomatoes, toss them in a tablespoon of olive oil, a pinch of sugar and salt, and cook them in a 200 degree oven until the skins have just burst. If using fresh tomatoes, slice them in half lengthwise.

Simmer the rice in salted water in a covered pot until cooked, but still al dente, about 45 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until just crisp. Remove the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate. Pour off all but 1 teaspoon of the bacon fat from the skillet. Add the olive oil to the skillet and then the shallot and chili flakes, sauteing until just translucent. Remove from the heat and whisk in the vinegar.

In a large bowl, combine the rice, tomatoes, basil, and dates. Pour over the warm dressing and toss gently but thoroughly. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Garnish with the chevre and serve warm.

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