Friday, May 13, 2011

Weekly Lunch: Black Rice Salad with Watercress Pesto

This combination was a bit of a gamble. The watercress was an impulse purchase at the neighborhood farmer's market, which opened for the season last week. I didn't have enough of it to do much except make pesto, so that is what I did. I pulled off the leaves and smaller stems, discarding the thicker, woodier stems. Combined with garlic, toasted walnuts, lemon zest, salt, and olive oil, it became a fresh and lively addition to this salad.
For the roasted carrots and kale, I used the same method that I used a few weeks ago - it worked very well. No fennel this time, and I used curly green kale instead of lacinato  - I'm glad to know this cooking method works with both types equally well. Just be sure to massage the olive oil into all of the curly edges of the kale, and it will roast much more evenly.
Delicious pesto
I decided to add a lemony harissa dressing to the roasted veggies on a whim (are you sensing a theme here?). Lemon zest, lemon juice, harissa paste, and a touch of smoked paprika gave a wonderful brightness to the veggies, contrasting with the nutty and comforting beans and rice.

And a sprinkle of feta for good measure. I love it when impulse veggie purchases turn out to be a success.

Black Rice Salad with Watercress Pesto and Harissa Roasted Veggies
Makes 4 main dish servings

1 cup black japonica rice (wild rice would also be delicious here)
2 cups cooked cannellini beans
1 large bunch kale (curly or lacinato)
4 medium carrots, peeled and chopped in 1” pieces
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Zest of half a lemon
Juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons harissa paste
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
2-3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

¼ cup watercress pesto (directions below)

Cook the rice according to package directions. Drain any extra water and set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Toss the chopped carrots with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet and roast for 15-20 minutes until almost tender. In the meantime, cut the kale leaves from the stems and slice into thin strips. Place the kale in a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt, using your hands to massage the oil into all of the curly parts. When the carrots are almost tender, pour the kale on top of the carrots and return to the oven for 3-5 minutes until the kale is wilted but not crispy. Set aside to cool.

In a small bowl or jar, combine the lemon zest and juice with the harissa paste and smoked paprika. Set aside.

Lunch assembly: in the morning (or the night before), combine 1/4 of the cooked rice with 1/2 cup beans and a spoonful of pesto in your favorite lunch container. Add 1/4 of the roasted veggies and drizzle with 1/4 of the lemon-harissa dressing. Top with a sprinkle of feta.

Watercress Pesto
Makes about ¾ cup

1 bunch watercress
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted
Zest of half a lemon
¼ teaspoon salt
3-4 tablespoons olive oil

Cut the leaves and smaller stems of the watercress any larger stems. In a food processor or blender, combine the garlic and walnuts, then add the watercress, lemon zest and salt and pulse/blend. Drizzle in the olive oil while processing/blending until it turns into a smooth, bright green paste.

Extra pesto is delicious on roasted potatoes, tofu, eggs, pasta, or toast.



  1. I've been hearing about the health benefits of black rice lately, but I haven't been able to find it locally! Where did you buy it?

  2. I got Lundberg Farms brand, which I've seen at a lot of places (but not always the black rice, that seems more hard to find). I found it at Fred Meyer, a Northwest chain owned by Kroger. This is the first time I've tried black rice and I quite like it!

  3. I love your idea for watercress pesto! I will need to check that out :) I have not tried black rice, but I believe the gourmet market in my building sells it!

  4. Rachel, I am really making the most of my food processor :) Before last year I had only ever made basil pesto but I am loving all of these different varieties!!


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