As Delicious as It is Beautiful.
As you’re undoubtedly aware, I have a great fondness for citrus fruits. Whether they be fresh and bright, candied, or roasted in order to deepen their flavor, I turn to them again and again. For this dish, I roasted a couple trays of sliced oranges and lemons until they’d begun to char and caramelize.
I’ve cooked and enjoyed black rice, but this is the first time I’ve tried Italian black rice . It’s a smaller grain than Asian black rice and isn’t quite as sticky. It’s really perfect for a salad. I cook it as I would cook pasta, in a big pot of boiling salted water. Then I drain it and spread it out on a sheet pan to cool. It’s chewy in texture, but not gummy. I prefer it over brown rice, for both texture and flavor.
As much as I like butternut squash, I also find it can strike me as cloying in its sweetness if it doesn’t have something to balance out the flavors. I thought the roasted citrus would work well in that respect, but I also added dried cranberries and dried sour cherries to the salad, along with sliced scallions.
As to the dressing, I have a lovely vinegar called Sonomic Gold Almost Vinegar, which is made with apricots. It’s mild, but fully flavored, so I added a couple tablespoons of lemon juice in order to make sure the dressing was bright enough. In order to enhance the apricot flavor, I put in a teaspoon of apricot jam and it did the trick. If you don’t have this particular vinegar a mild balsamic would work and you could add a little strawberry, plum, or raspberry jam.
This delicious salad works really well with poultry or pork. You can make it ahead and let it sit out while you roast a chicken or a pork roast. It gets better and better as it sits and all those flavors have time to meld. The leftovers are great, too. I just let it sit out and come to room temperature before serving again.