A few weeks ago my local grocery was sampling asparagus as part of their “Thrill of the Grill” promotion. They almost always have a few carts set up with tiny cooktops so they can sample something enticing, but this was truly extraordinary. I though they had grilled the asparagus outside then brought it in and finished the cooking, but no…
They had finished it with smoked salt! Mmmm… I knew they offered several flavors (hickory, applewood, mesquite…) in the bulk department, but I’d sort of forgotten about it.
Now this isn’t the salt you add to your pasta water by the handful, this is more of a last minute addition. I’m on a bit of a craze for it at the moment and today I tried it with asparagus and rice. Mmmm!
The rice I used is black rice aka “forbidden” rice. A friend has been raving about it and I figured I’d best see what all the shouting was about. He’s right, it is wonderful. It cooks up a little sticky, not as much as arborio and certainly not like that Thai rice, but it does hold together. It tastes a bit nutty (nutlike?) and it is beautiful.The rice itself is small, the grains are just a bit larger than flax or sesame seeds. I’d never made it before but the trick seems to be to soak it before cooking it, then use less water than you would for long grain rice, if that makes sense. I soaked one cup of rice in a couple of cups of cool water for an hour, then simmered it in 1.5 cups of water for about half an hour.
So, this rice does require a bit of forethought, but I think it is worth it! And it offers a beautiful contrast to, say, fish or other “white” food.
All I did was chop the asparagus, steam it, finish it with a bit of olive oil and a good pinch of smoked salt (a little goes a long way!), then use it to top the rice. I love the slightly smoky flavor, no charcoal required! And, as no salt is needed in the cooking I think this isn’t a health hazard unless you are on a no salt diet.
This is the sort of dish I love. You could add cooked chicken, or ham, or turkey, chopped up or you could add tomatoes, or beans (Maybe white beans with the black rice? Hmmm..) or most anything you like. A cup of this rice cooks up into a couple of cups as most any rice will, so a cup will feed several people easily as a side. Go for it!
Smokin’ Black Rice and Asparagus
1 C black (forbidden) rice
1 good bunch asparagus
Soak the rice in cool water for one hour. Drain. Bring 1.5 C water to a boil, add the rice, cover and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes, remove from heat and let sit covered while you make the asparagus.
Chop the asparagus into bite-sized pieces, steam for about 8 minutes, then remove from heat and toss with a bit or olive oil and a good pinch or two of smoked salt. Top or stir into the black rice. Serve on white plates for best effect.
Easy other than needing to soak the rice, good for you and pretty to boot! Have you used smoked salt? Let us know!