This fresh, hearty side dish will stand out among its richer, creamier counterparts on the holiday table. We achieved perfectly cooked brown rice by boiling it in abundant water. Sprinkling the rice with bright lemon juice while it was still warm boosted its flavour.
To easily turn our brown rice into an appealing side salad, we stirred in crisp, browned bites of asparagus, more lemon juice, creamy goat cheese, and crunchy toasted almonds. We like the flavour of brown basmati rice, but any long-grain brown rice is acceptable. Look for asparagus that is bright green and firm.
Toast the almonds in a skillet (without any oil) set over medium heat, shaking the pan occasionally to prevent scorching.
BROWN RICE SALAD WITH ASPARAGUS AND GOAT CHEESE
Start to finish: 1 hour 15 minutes
Brown Rice:1 1/2 cups long-grain brown rice
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Asparagus and Vinaigrette:1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pound asparagus, trimmed
Salt and pepper
2 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest plus 2 tablespoons juice
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled (1 cup)
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Bring 3 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add rice and salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until rice is tender, 22 to 25 minutes. Drain rice, transfer to parchment paper-lined rimmed baking sheet, and spread into even layer. Drizzle rice with lemon juice and let cool completely, about 15 minutes.
Heat vegetable oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add half of asparagus with tips pointed in 1 direction and remaining asparagus with tips pointed in opposite direction. Using tongs, arrange spears in even layer (they will not quite fit into single layer); cover and cook until bright green and still crisp, 2 to 5 minutes. Uncover, increase heat to high, season with salt and pepper, and continue to cook until tender and well browned on 1 side, 5 to 7 minutes, using tongs to occasionally move spears from centre to edge of pan to ensure all are browned. Transfer to plate and let cool completely. Cut into 1-inch pieces.
Whisk olive oil, shallot, lemon zest and juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper together in bowl. Transfer cooled rice to large bowl. Add asparagus, all but 2 tablespoons goat cheese, and dressing; toss to combine. Let stand for 10 minutes.
Add 1/3 cup almonds and 3 tablespoons parsley; toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with remaining almonds, reserved 2 tablespoons goat cheese, and remaining 1 tablespoon parsley; serve.