Wednesday, February 2, 2011


My herb book says that mint is from the cosmopolitan family Lamiaceae. Cosmopolitan. Does it mean that mint doesn't call anywhere home; mint is comfortable all over the world? It grows like a weed in my little herb garden. I pull it up by the handfuls and it never seems to diminish the crop. 

Mint is .....  ding ding ding, new vocabulary word coming up .....  carminative. I like learning this word, because it sounds so much better than 'inducing expulsion of gas from the stomach and intestines'. So when you're sipping your mint julep at a party, hold up your pinkie finger and say, "You know it's carminative." I doubt anyone will admit they don't know the word. And if they ask, you have an opportunity to whisper the meaning, conspiratorially, into her ear. Others at the party will observe you huddled together and be intrigued.  

Today's recipe is an adaption of a recipe I learned from MaryJanesFarm. Where she added parsley, I added Mint. It is delightful.  I recommend you make it a day ahead and let the flavors marinate overnight. The citrus dressing is refreshing and will become a regular at my house for all kinds of salads.

Harvest Brown Rice Salad
with Citrus Vinaigrette
about 6 healthy servings

4 cups water
2 cups dry wild/brown rice mix or 1 1/2 cup dry brown rice, 1/2 cup dry wild rice
3 cups butternut squash 1/2" cubes (med butternut squash peeled, seeded)
1 cup chopped toasted pecans
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup fresh mint (If you can't find fresh mint, substitute with 4 tsp dried mint.
Citrus Vinaigrette:
1 shallot minced
1/2 cup orange juice
2 tsp orange zest
1/4 lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
5 Tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

 1.  Bring 4 cups water to a boil over high heat. Add rice, return to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 50 minutes. Let stand off heat for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Transfer to a large bowl and allow to cool to room temperature. Mary Jane doesn't add salt. I recommend about a teaspoon of salt.
Note: I always make rice in the oven. I simply pour the boiling water over the rice in a casserole dish, add salt and cover. I preheat the oven to 350 degrees, set the timer for 50 minutes and forget about it. Perfect every time.

2. Steam butternut squash until tender but not mushy, about 10 minutes.  Cool. 

3. Add chopped pecans, dried cranberries and minced mint to cooled rice mixture. You don't have to worry that the mint will over power the flavors. I added more mint to my salad and ate the garnish too.

4.  Combine all the ingredients for the citrus vinaigrette and shake until combined.  Make an extra batch while your at it for tomorrow's meal. You are going to love it so much you will want some on hand.

5. Add 3/4 of the dressing to the rice/nut mixture and toss. Gently fold in the butternut squash. Taste. Adjust the amount of dressing/ salt, pepper and mint.

As a child we often had a one pot meal for dinner. As I have matured, I have replaced hot dishes with salads. It's the same idea really. All the wonderful flavors and nutrition you need in one bowl. Enjoy.

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