I’m a big fan of the New York Times Dining section that comes out every Wednesday. It’s a great mix of restaurant reviews, food trends and excellent cooking ideas from a stable of talented writers. One of them is David Tanis, a cookbook veteran and Chez Panisse alumnus, who is known for his simple, rustic recipes. His column often transports you to some exotic locale with its rich descriptions and ingredients. He recently featured an amazing Mediterranean salad with cool rice, gently cooked seafood and fresh seasonal accents like tomatoes, basil and green beans. He says it was inspired by his dream of summering in a southern Mediterranean village, an inviting alternative to enduring the hot, sticky months in New York. According to Tanis, rice salads, with endless combinations of ingredients, are common around the Mediterranean in summer. His preparation hints of Italy, France and Greece, and could easily be adapted to Moroccan or Turkish ingredients. The rice is cooked in rapidly boiling water, pasta style, making it light and airy. Tanis cooks the seafood in boiling water as well (even the mussels!), but I prefer to quickly pan-sear the shrimp and squid while cooking the mussels in a covered skillet with wine and shallots.
David Tanis’ Mediterranean Seafood Salad
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 1½ cups Arborio rice. Cook about 15 minutes, as you would pasta, until just al dente. Drain and spread rice on a platter to cool.
Make a simple, lemony vinaigrette by combining 1 finely diced shallot, 1 minced garlic clove, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, ½ teaspoon grated lemon zest, 1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar and 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard. Mix and let sit for 10 minutes. Slowly whisk in 1/3 cup good olive oil, season with salt and pepper and set aside.
In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat and toss in about a tablespoon of chopped shallots. Stir until just soft and add 2 tablespoons white wine and a dozen scrubbed mussels. Cover and cook 10 minutes until mussels open. Remove the mussels from shells, drizzle with a little olive oil and set aside.
Wipe out the pan and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add ½ pound squid, cut into rings, and ½ pound peeled shrimp. Cook over high heat, stirring often, until the seafood is just opaque. Set aside to cool.
Cook ½ pound of green beans in a large pot of salted water until just starting to become tender, but still bright green and springy. Drain and cool over ice to stop the cooking.
To assemble the salad, toss the rice with half the vinaigrette, salt and pepper. Mix the green beans with ½ pound ripe cherry tomatoes, halved, dress with a little vinaigrette and scatter over the rice. Arrange the seafood on top, drizzle with the rest of the dressing, adjust seasoning and garnish with fresh basil and chives.
Serves 4 Wine pairing: A French rose or an Italian Orvieto