Happy New Year! I'm always curious to know what people really think when they enter a new year. Perhaps excited for a fresh start, motivated by new goals or a recent change in their life, relieved to have escaped the previous year, or maybe just straight up ambivalent! These are all valid feelings, none of which I am a stranger to. But I most strongly consider the new year as an opportunity to hit the refresh and cleanse button for my mind and body. I try to make small tweaks that are sustainable and balanced because that's what life is about;
nothing more elaborate than carving out time to reflect on personal challenges and achievements in the last year and uncluttering my mind to refocus and define what is most important to me and where I should channel my energy in the coming year. One of the best gifts we can give ourselves is a little time and energy directed to our personal health and happiness, which will in turn allow us to be more present with each other and more effective and productive citizens of the world.
Hitting the refresh button means something different to each of us. Since we arrived in Switzerland I have been fascinated watching our Swiss neighbors hang their bed linens out their windows in the morning. Whether it's warm or cold out, in the city or countryside, the morning hours promise a show of, at the least wide open windows (no window screens needed here), and oftentimes also comforters, pillows, and even stuffed animals :-[ hanging from the ledge. It's a sensory cleanse, Swiss-style!
Sometimes I feel the need to hit the refresh button on my dinner plate too, especially once winter sets in and simmering soups and stews take over the stove. Winter root vegetables are plentiful now and perfect for roasting, braising, and stewing. But I crave winter citrus as a balanced counterpart, and this pure, cleansing, and fresh citrus black rice salad was the answer recently.
The sweet and tangy citrus combined with substantial, chewy grains and a scattering of crumbly cheese makes for a very happy day.
Black rice can be found at health food stores and on Amazon. However, if you cannot find black rice, pearled barley, quinoa, or farro are equally delicious substitutes. But here are a few interesting facts about black rice that may just entice you to set out in search for some.
Black rice is an heirloom variety from Asia and is also known as forbidden rice, japonica rice, and purple rice. It has been claimed as a superfood and the new brown rice. I love it because it's an all-in-one whole food. It turns a deep purple color once cooked adding a vibrancy to your plate, and it has a pleasingly chewy, slightly sticky texture and nutty flavor. And it is a nutritional powerhouse to boot. It has a superior combination of antioxidants because it is usually sold in its whole grain, unprocessed form which keeps in tact the outer layer of bran. Like brown rice it has comparable fiber, complex carbohydrates, and protein content.
Citrus Black Rice Bowls
Notes: I intended to use ricotta salata (a mildly nutty Italian cheese made by pressing, salting, and drying ricotta) in this recipe. But sadly I could not find it. I went with a sheep's milk feta which worked perfectly, but if you have a chance to pick up some ricotta salata please do.
For variations to the salad add toasted, chopped walnuts, almonds, or pine nuts at the end.
- 1 1/2 cups black rice
- 1 grapefruit or pomelo
- 1 large blood orange or regular orange
- 2-3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp. honey
- 1 fennel bulb
- 1 small bunch of tarragon (or other herb of choice such as basil, parsley, or dill), chopped
- Handful of feta, crumbled (or ricotta salata)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cook black rice according to package directions, but go just shy on the amount of liquid called for so that the grains cook up separately and are slightly drier.
- While the rice is cooking, segment the citrus. Working over a large bowl to catch the juices, cut the citrus segments away placing them in a separate smaller bowl. Once all segments are cut away squeeze any remaining juice into the large bowl. To the juice add olive oil, vinegar, honey and season with salt and pepper to taste. Taste and adjust the level of acidity and sweetness to your liking.
- Next, prepare the fennel. Remove outer fibrous layer of fennel bulb, halve it, and slice as thinly as possible using a mandolin or a knife. Add fennel shavings to the citrus vinaigrette and set aside.
- Once the rice is cooked, immediately toss it with the fennel and vinaigrette.
- Gently stir in the citrus, herbs, and cheese. Taste, adjust for seasoning, and serve immediately.
What are your motivations for the new year? The word goal does not conjure a meaningful emotion for me, so instead I think in terms of inspirations and aspirations.
Two quotes from the Dalai Lama will continue to inspire me this year.