Sometimes I hear voices in my head when I’m cooking.
Well, one particular voice. Chef Shawn, one of my culinary school instructors. I hear him yelling “That’s free flavor, chef! You’re not going to throw that away, ARE YOU?” More tips on all the ways to recognize free flavor in my “What I Learned In Culinary School, Part 3” post, but today, I’m focusing on swiss chard. I knew I wanted to use chard leaves in this autumn rice salad, because I love their slightly bitter, earthy flavor, especially when paired with sweet things like pomegranate seeds and dried cranberries.
After I chopped up the swiss chard leaves and “marinated” them in a little bit of the apple cider vinaigrette I was using for the salad, part of me wanted to just get lazy and throw the chard stems away. But as my hand, full of chard stems, was hovering over the trash can, I heard Chef Shawn screaming at me for throwing away free flavor. So, I chopped them up and threw them in the oven with the already-roasting butternut squash. Boom. Take that, voice in my head.
I’ve talked about nearly all of the other ingredients in this rice salad – butternut squash, swiss chard AND swiss chard stems, pomegranate seeds, dried cranberries, apples, pistachios and a homemade apple cider vinaigrette – but I haven’t yet talked about the most important part, the rice itself!
For this salad, I used the #1 selling basmati rice in America, Royal® Basmati Rice. This authentic basmati rice comes from the foothills of the Himalayas, and is aged for a minimum of 12 months. It is Non-GMO Project Verified and gluten free, but best of all, it’s a dream to cook with. It simmers up nice and fluffy, and not sticky at all. It has an amazing nutty flavor, making it the perfect base for this Autumn Celebration Rice Salad.
P.S. Yes, I know: I really, really like the combo of squash and pomegranate. I just can’t resist. If you feel the same way, be sure to check out my Butternut Squash & Pomegranate Crostini with Whipped Feta and Honey, as well as my Roasted Acorn Squash with Pomegranate & Parsley.
Autumn Celebration Rice Salad
For the Rice Salad:
- 1/2 bunch swiss chard
- 1 medium (about 2 pounds) butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper
- 1 cup Royal Basmati Rice
- 1 apple, chopped
- 1/2 cup pomegranate arils
- 1/3 cup dried cranberries
- 1/4 cup shelled pistachios
For the Apple Cider Vinaigrette:
- 1/4 cup apple cider
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
- Make the Rice Salad: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Separate swiss chard leaves and stems. Thinly slices leaves and cut stems crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces. Set aside, separately.
- Place squash on rimmed baking pan; toss with oil, salt and pepper. Transfer to oven and roast 30 to 35 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. During last 5 minutes of roasting time, add chard stems to pan and roast until tender.
- Meanwhile, prepare rice according to package directions; remove from heat and let cool slightly.
- Make the Apple Cider Vinaigrette: In large bowl, whisk together apple cider, vinegar and honey. While whisking, slowly drizzle in oil until all oil is incorporated. Stir in thyme, salt and pepper.
- Add swiss chard leaves to bowl with dressing and toss to combine. Let stand 10 minutes, then add apple, pomegranate arils, cranberries, pistachios, roasted squash and chard stems, and rice; toss to combine. Serve immediately, or cover and let stand at room tempreature up to 1 hour before serving.
Disclosure: This was a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Royal Basmati Rice. Sponsored posts help me pay for the costs associated with this blog (groceries…lots of groceries), and help support me as I pursue a career in recipe development and food photography. All opinions are 100% my own.